Wizards

Wizards

The 2019-20 Washington Wizards continue to stand out in the context of NBA history, and not in a good way.

We knew going into this season their defense would likely be a weakness, but to this extent? After allowing 151 points in a loss to the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Bucks on Tuesday, the Wizards became just the fourth team ever to give up 150-plus in two straight games. The Hawks dropped 152 on them on Sunday.

Tuesday was the sixth time the Wizards have given up 140 points or more already this season. That's the most such games for any team since the 1990-91 Nuggets. Reminder that this was Game 46 of the Wizards' season.

There have been six total 150-point games this season in the NBA and four of them have been against the Wizards. They allow the most points of any team on the year (121.3/g) and have the worst defensive rating (116.6). 

The latter is on pace to be the second-worst in league history only to the 2018-19 Cavaliers, who posted a 117.6. Those Cavs, though, only gave up 114.1 points per game.

The Wizards' defensive ineptitude peaked, though, in the first half of Tuesday's defeat when they allowed a shocking 88 points to the Bucks. That was a franchise-record for Milwaukee for points in a half and the most ever scored by a Wizards/Bullets opponent in a half. It was the seventh-most points scored in a first half in NBA history.

The real shame is that the Wizards had made some progress defensively not that long ago. From Dec. 28 through Jan. 15, a span of 10 games, the Wizards held opponents to 113 points a night. That would rank 20th among NBA teams if held over the whole season to this point.

 

That's not exactly the 90s Bulls, but combined with their high-powered offense, that gave the Wizards a winning formula. It was during that stretch that they beat three of the NBA's top teams; the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics. And they won all three games without Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant.

Those three, by the way, might be the Wizards' best players. But as the Wizards have gotten healthy, they have also taken a step backward defensively.

Defensive rating, which measures points allowed per 100 possessions, is a team stat that is tracked and charted for individual players. The number assigned to each player indicates how the team plays defensively when they are on the floor. And because it is a team-wide stat, it isn't a perfect representation of how a player performs on the defensive end.

But it can tell you who is on the floor when the team is at their best or worst and Beal and Bryant happen to have two of the three highest defensive ratings on the team. Beal is at 121 and Bryant is at 120.9. The only player worse is Rui Hachimura (123.8), who should be returning soon himself from injury.

Isaiah Thomas has the fourth-highest defensive rating on the team at 120.7, which added to the equation further illustrates how bad the Wizards' starting lineup is at preventing points. Part of it, of course, could be the simple fact that as starters they face the best players on the opposing teams.

But also many of the Wizards' best defensively rated players were logging heavy minutes when the aforementioned guys were out. Garrison Mathews (103.8), Anzejs Pasecniks (109.5), Isaac Bonga (110.2), Jordan McRae (111.9), Troy Brown Jr. (114.3), Gary Payton II (115.4), Ish Smith (115.4) and Ian Mahinmi (115.8) were leading the charge when the Wizards were missing most of their regulars.

This, of course, by no means suggests the Wizards are better without Beal, Bertans, Bryant and others. But with them back in the lineup, the Wizards are trending in the wrong direction defensively.

It's a confusing problem and one head coach Scott Brooks will need to figure out if this team plans to turn things around this season.

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