In the past few weeks, the Washington Wizards had started to look better. They were more competitive on their West Coast trip, playing close games against the Phoenix Suns, and securing a win at Portland. There was a feeling that perhaps they could start turning things around. Then, they returned home to Capital One Arena and suffered two desultory losses back-to-back. The one last night against the Toronto Raptors was perhaps the most disappointing performance of the season.
The Raptors' 132-102 win against the Wizards last night was their largest margin of victory this season. It was also the worst home loss of the year for Washington, despite being the 15th double-digit loss for the team.
Giving up 132 points to the 23rd-ranked offense in the league is certainly embarrassing. It highlights the defensive struggles the team has faced all season. The fact that there hasn't been an improvement on that end is deeply frustrating.
The Wizards continue to be the worst defensive team in the league, allowing 123.8 points per 100 possessions. They allow the highest percentage to opponents at the rim and are the worst rebounding team in the league by a wide margin. When that is already the case, you simply can't afford to be out-hustled.
Yet, the Wizards rank near the bottom of the league in all hustle stats, compiled by NBA.com. These include charges drawn, deflections, and loose balls recovered. And in games like last night, they get outrun and outworked as well.
Toronto had 28 fast break points last night, running on 25% of their possessions and converting 150 points per 100 possessions on these chances, one of their best transition performances of the season, according to Cleaning the Glass data. In the second half, the Wizards regularly failed to get back on defense, giving up on plays, and allowing easy fast break opportunities.
Losing games is fine and expected. Giving up on games, however, is not. The 2023-24 Washington Wizards are consistently giving up on possessions and games. If you are already lower on talent than your opponent, you need to outeffort them. The Wizards' failure to do that night in, night out is a concerning sign that raises questions about Wes Unseld Jr and the coaching staff.