Wizards

Westbrook's turnovers loom large in loss to Grizzlies

Wizards

Russell Westbrook leads the NBA in turnovers per game and the Grizzlies score the most points off turnovers of any team in the league. That was a predictably bad combination for the Wizards on Tuesday night, as they lost to Memphis 125-111 in a game that was out of reach by the end of the first half.

The Wizards as a team had 22 turnovers, which Memphis turned into 32 points. But it was Westbrook's eight turnovers that stood out most, as he had seven of them in the first half alone. That tied Westbrook's career-high for a single half and it was the most in one half by a Wizards player since 2016.

Westbrook, 32, is putting up some big numbers overall this season with 20.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists per game. But his 5.0 turnovers per game average is a major blemish.

Head coach Scott Brooks said after Tuesday's game that Westbrook is committing "too many" turnovers this season, but that he sees some of the mistakes as different than others.

"He's trying to make plays for his teammates," Brooks said. "Those unselfish turnovers, you can clean them up, but his heart is in the right place. You can live with them, but there was definitely too many."

As for a common thread between the turnovers, Brooks said many of them are when Westbrook is making "aggressive plays" and he loses control. According to Basketball Reference, about 74.5% of his turnovers are on bad passes while the other 25.2% are when he loses his dribble.

 

Brooks also noted how Westbrook got better in the second half, which has also been a trend this season. Of his league-leading 5.0 turnovers per game, 2.9 come in the first half. He has a tendency to play under more control after halftime and that was the case on Tuesday. Though he had eight turnovers in the game, just one of them was in the second half.

Not surprisingly, there is a correlation between Westbrook's turnovers and the Wizards' success as a team. When Westbrook has three or fewer turnovers, the Wizards are 4-2 this season. When he has four or more, they are 5-15.

That, of course, makes logical sense. He's their point guard and initiates the offense. Naturally, the offense runs better when he protects the ball.

Giving up too many points off turnovers has been an issue for the Wizards this season, as it was on Tuesday night. They are 24th in the NBA in the category, allowing 17.9 per game. They have been even worse lately. Despite winning seven of their last 10 games, the Wizards are 28th in points allowed off turnovers (20.4/g).

The Wizards as a team are about average in committing turnovers, ranking 18th in the NBA (14.4/g). That is despite Bradley Beal being tied for 11th-most in the league with 3.4 turnovers per game. Beal had six turnovers against Memphis.

But it all starts with Westbrook, who Brooks said ideally would be averaging about one fewer turnover per game. He can live with some of them, but eight is far too many.

"He needs to be better. He knows," Brooks said.