Wizards learn hard way the importance of turnovers


WASHINGTON -- In their franchise history, the Wizards had previously played 71 games in which they shot at least 50% from the field and 50% from three, making at least 10 three-point shots. They were 60-11 in those games.

That should give you an idea of how well the Wizards shot against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night and how rare it was to see them lose such a game. The reason why Toronto was able to overcome those odds is simple. Washington had 24 turnovers, enough to extinguish what was otherwise a banner night on the offensive end.

The Wizards had 13 turnovers in the first half, went into the locker room at halftime to regroup, then came out to commit 11 more in the second half.

"They had 15 more field goal attempts because of it," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "We shot [50.7%) from the field, [58.3%] from three. You feel pretty good about what you're doing, but they're getting more possessions."

Adding to the Wizards' frustration was the fact they knew this is what the Raptors do very well. Toronto came into the game second in the NBA in forcing turnovers and first in points off turnovers. 

The Raptors have a unique blend of size and length with three interchangeable wings in Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes. They can switch seamlessly, initiate contact and clog passing lanes.

Unseld Jr. blamed the turnovers on the Raptors' defense for the most part, though he did see some mistakes he wished they could have back.


"Over-dribbling, playing in crowds, not spacing correctly. All the things I think we were aware off and trying to avoid," he said.

The Wizards are an average team when it comes to protecting the ball. They entered Saturday's game ranked 15th out of 30 NBA teams in turnovers at 14.2 per game. But that number includes a large contribution from point guard Monte Morris, who is No. 1 in the NBA among qualified players in assist-to-turnover ratio.

Without Morris, the Wizards were undermanned in a key area against the Raptors. Wizards guards combined for 11 turnovers as a group. Bradley Beal had five, Delon Wright and Kendrick Nunn each had three and Jordan Goodwin had two.

"Huge," Beal said when asked about the importance of protecting the ball. "Just gotta slow down, everybody, me too. We've all gotta slow down and get to our spots and execute better."

Kristaps Porzingis pulled out a saying from his home country to describe the Wizards' efforts to limit turnovers against the Raptors. 

"We could have taken better care of the ball, but of course everybody is smart after the war," he said. "That's a Latvian saying, I translated it."

The Wizards know what happened. Perhaps they can take solace in the fact they beat this same team on Thursday in the first of their two-game mini-series.

The Wizards will see the Raptors again on March 26 in the third and final game of the season series. That game could decide a postseason tiebreaker.

Maybe the Wizards can have better luck protecting the ball in that one.