I watched Friday night’s thrilling overtime win against Phoenix and, while I certainly enjoyed the thrill of victory, I was almost sad to see the Wizards win. The trouble is that when you see the ‘zards take down one of the league’s elite teams — on the road, in the fourth game in five nights, no less — you start developing dreams of glory. But these are still the Wizards, the team that’s managed to get blown out by New York and Memphis. What’s the deal? Noam Scheiber has a theory that he spells out here which happens to be very similar to one I concocted during a Saturday morning Metro ride.
I think the actual explanation, though, is simpler. Look here and, roughly speaking, you’ll see that whether or not the Wizards win seems determined almost exclusively by how many points Gilbert Arenas scores. There are really only two games — a December 9 loss to Houston where he scored 41, and an ugly November 28 win over Atlanta where he scored 21 — where this breaks down. It would be worth doing a more sophisticated analysis that distinguished scoring driven by a high usage rate, scoring driven by high shooting efficiency, and scoring driven by a fast pace. One way or another, though, this mostly seems to come down to the wattage of the team’s star power.