MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 24 -- On the surface, the Washington Wizards appear to play a freewheeling style that features Gilbert Arenas pushing the basketball up the floor at a high speed. The perception masks what has been a consistent strength of Coach Eddie Jordan's team: taking care of the basketball. Only three teams (Detroit, Dallas and Toronto) average fewer turnovers than the Wizards (13.7).
But in the past two games, the Wizards have caused themselves problems with careless passing, over-aggressive dribbling and offensive fouls, and the result was a win that ended up being far closer than it could have been (109-106 over Sacramento on Thursday night) and an emphatic loss (105-90 at Chicago on Friday night).
Sacramento erased a 17-point Washington lead by turning 23 Wizards turnovers into 27 points, and the Bulls converted 17 Wizards turnovers into 21 points.
Turnovers were the central difference between the Wizards and Bulls Friday night because neither team was particularly hot offensively. The Wizards shot 42.1 percent and made 3 of 8 three-pointers, while the Bulls shot 42.7 percent and made 7 of 15 three-point attempts.
Many of Chicago's best shots came on fast-break layups or wide-open jumpers that were a direct result of Washington mistakes. At times, the Wizards simply appeared to be a step or two slower than the Bulls.
"Yes, they shot well," Jordan said. "However, when you turn the ball over like we did, that's how you get good shots. We held them to something like 39 percent in the first half. However, Gil and Caron [Butler] were turning the ball over and we just need to play smarter. I don't know if the All-Star Game hurt us. I thought before the break that it would help us. However, there's no break in Las Vegas. The coaching staff is fine but hopefully we can get some rest for Gil and Caron, and that's why I'm trying to rotate a lot of guys in and give them some rest when I can."
Arenas turned over the ball nine times against the Kings and four times against the Bulls while Butler and guard DeShawn Stevenson combined to commit 11 turnovers in the two games. Those three players are key because they, along with reserve guard Antonio Daniels, are the team's primary ball handlers and decision makers.
As a team, the Wizards have exceeded their turnover average in each of the last five games.
Some of the mistakes have the been the result of doing too much. Trying to split a double team in the third quarter Friday night, Arenas was stripped of the ball, and the play led to an easy Chicago layup. Other mistakes have been the result of players not being on the same page, as when Daniels and forward Darius Songaila botched a dribble hand-off early in the fourth quarter, resulting in another layup for the Bulls.
When told how many turnovers the Wizards committed Friday night, Arenas grimaced.
"Yeah, well, that's going to hurt you when they had what, only five?" Arenas said. "They controlled the ball very well, especially against us with the way we look to steal the ball. We've been turning the ball over a lot the last couple of games, and we pulled one out [against Sacramento]. Tonight we just got caught with it."
Taking away the ball was one of the keys to a comfortable victory over Sunday's opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves, when the teams met at Verizon Center on Tuesday. The Wizards forced seven of Minnesota's 15 turnovers in the first quarter and turned the early mistakes into a 12-first quarter lead that fueled a 112-100 victory.
They'll try to replicate that Sunday afternoon, when they look to end a six-game losing streak inside Minnesota's Target Center.
"You don't want to lose your aggressiveness because that's what we are but at the same time, we can be more careful with some of the sloppy passes and bad plays we've had," Arenas said. "You just don't want to give a team free points like that, especially on the road."
· Wizards Note: The team's flight from Chicago to Minneapolis was diverted to Duluth, Minn., early Saturday afternoon because of a snowstorm that closed the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The team was to take a bus to Minneapolis on Saturday night -- the trip takes about 3 1/2 hours under normal driving conditions -- and was expected to arrive around midnight.