Fueled by a great game from Montrezl Harrell and scoring three-point shooting from Kyle Kuzma, the Wizards rallied from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 97-94 and push their record to 8-3.
The 2021-22 Wizards are now tied for the second best start in franchise history with the teams from 1968-69 and 2014-15. The 1974-75 Bullets hold top honors — they went 9-2 in their first 11 games.
Harrell was too much for Cavaliers big men Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley to handle, pouring in 24 points in 25 minutes on just 12 field goal attempts. He added 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks — a terrific all-around performance from the reserve center.
The Wizards got outshot by Cleveland, but won on the strength of a 12-6 advantage on the offensive boards and a 17-15 edge in free throws. Harrell led the team in both categories with 5 offensive rebounds and 8-8 shooting from the free throw line.
Kuzma delivered for the Wizards in the fourth quarter, hitting 4-5 from three-point range, including two in the final 30 seconds on designed out-of-bounds plays. In both sets, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. called plays that used Bradley Beal to draw defenders and kick the ball to an open Kuzma.
The second of Kuzma’s two late threes put the Wizards ahead for the first time since the second quarter. It was a lead they would not relinquish.
- Spencer Dinwiddie had an off game on the offensive end, but contributed 10 rebounds and 6 assists.
- Rookie Corey Kispert had a nice game with 9 points and 4 rebounds in just 14 minutes.
- Cleveland harassed Beal into a horrific offensive night — just 4-19 from the floor, 1-5 from three and 4 turnovers. He made key plays late, including the two assists to Kuzma. And he chipped in 7 rebounds. Overall, it was a terrible performance, but he still found ways to contribute.
- If you enjoy good defense that forces talented players to work for their offense, this was a game for you. It was played at a slow pace of 91 possessions, and the Wizards won despite shooting worse from the field.
Below are the four factors that decide who wins and loses in basketball — shooting (efg), rebounding (offensive rebounds), ball handling (turnovers), fouling (free throws made).
I’ve simplified them a bit. While the factors are usually presented as percentages, that’s more useful over a full season. In a single game, the raw numbers in each category are easier to understand.
PACE is possessions per 48 minutes.
Below are a few performance metrics, including the Player Production Average (PPA) Game Score (very similar to the one I used to call Scoreboard Impact Rating). PPA is my overall production metric, which credits players for things they do that help a team win (scoring, rebounding, playmaking, defending) and dings them for things that hurt (missed shots, turnovers, bad defense, fouls).
Game Score (GmSC) converts individual production into points on the scoreboard in this game. The scale is the same as points and reflects each player’s total contributions for the game. The lowest possible GmSC is zero.
PPA is a per possession metric designed for larger data sets. In small sample sizes, the numbers can get weird. But some readers prefer it so I’m including PPA scores as well. Reminder: in PPA, 100 is average, higher is better and replacement level is 45. For a single game, replacement level isn’t much use, and I reiterate the caution about small samples producing weird results.
POSS is the number of possessions each player was on the floor in this game.
PTS = points scored
ORTG = offensive rating, which is points produced per individual possessions x 100. League average last season was 112.3.
USG = offensive usage rate. Average is 20%.
ORTG and USG are slightly modified versions of stats created by Wizards assistant coach Dean Oliver and modified slightly by me. ORTG is an efficiency measure that accounts for the value of shooting, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. USG includes shooting from the floor and free throw line, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers.