Attempting to pinpoint a source for the Washington Wizards’ remarkable two-night turnover binge in their double-digit road losses to Eastern Conference foes Friday and Saturday is a futile exercise. There isn’t one single cause, after all, for the 50 giveaways they accumulated in their forgettable back-to-back set.
Opportunistic aggressive defense from the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks, the league’s top two teams in steals per game, generated some of the turnovers, and simple sloppiness produced others. Furthermore, a few Wizards players’ unfamiliarity with their remodeled, fast-paced offense has contributed to the chaos.
There have been times when a player making a pass expects a teammate to be in a certain spot only to have that teammate move to another location as the ball falls out of bounds or directly to the opposing team.
Players are confident they will progress in the offense with time, but there are more than a few turnovers that are independent of the growing pains and should be eliminated. There were instances Friday and Saturday when lackadaisical outlet passes were stolen and unaware dribblers were pick-pocketed by trailing defenders.
“It’s a process, but some of the turnovers have nothing to do with a process,” point guard John Wall said. “It’s just simple basketball, having a great IQ. Not trying to force things at times, and if you have the opportunity to take a shot, take a shot instead of trying to force the spectacular play and not taking the simple play.”
Washington’s primary ballhandlers were at the center of the 24-hour spree: Bradley Beal tallied a game-high eight turnovers Saturday, and Wall had seven after totaling at least seven in three of the Wizards’ four regular season meetings with the Hawks last season.
Wall, who accumulated eight giveaways in Friday’s 20-point loss to the Celtics, vowed before the start of the season to pay assistant coach Howard Eisley $100 for every game in which he had more than two giveaways. So far, he’s on the hook for $500 through six contests.
The only game Wall has managed to avoid the fee was when he amassed one turnover in Wednesday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs. It was the Wizards’ best win of the young season. They uncoincidentally posted a season-low 10 turnovers.
“We’ve shown what we can do if we do it the right way,” said Wall, who is third in the NBA in assists per game (8.8) but also tied for third in turnovers per game (5.0) entering Sunday. “We’ve also shown how bad it can be if we don’t do it the right way.”
Through six games, the Wizards lead the NBA in turnovers per game (19.7) and turnovers per 100 possessions (18.9). Their assist-to-turnover ratio is tied for 27th at 1.15. They managed to post two straight games of 24-plus turnovers after recording just one last season — a 26-turnover debacle in a blowout road loss to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in February.
Yet they nearly overcame the self-inflicted wounds Saturday: the Wizards held a 92-90 lead with just over six minutes remaining despite having accumulated 21 turnovers to that point. But they added five more and the Hawks finally capitalized, going on a 12-0 run for the knockout blow. With the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder next on their schedule Tuesday, the result served as another reminder how difficult it is to topple top-flight competition with the combustible formula.
“We just got to focus a lot more. We have to do that as a collective,” Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. said. “We got a long ways to go. We got to learn from it. The last couple games turnovers have been a big part, win or lose. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to cut those down.”
Wizards notes: Beal underwent further examinations Sunday after suffering an injury to his left shoulder area in Saturday’s loss to the Hawks. Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague’s right knee collided with Beal as he dove for a loose ball with just over three minutes remaining. He initially waved off a substitution and exited the contest with 56.6 seconds left.