Golden State Warriors at Washington Wizards preview: Where turnovers matter

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors need to just say no to turnovers. - Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The turnover-prone Warriors face the turnover-hungry Wizards in D.C. with the NBA's longest winning streak on the line.


Golden State Warriors (22-13, 6th in the West) at Washington Wizards (14-16, 5th in the East)

3 p.m. PT

Verizon Center - Washington, D.C.

TV: CSN Bay Area | Radio: KTCT 1050

Buddy blog: Bullets Forever

Q&A: Rebuilding, using the D-League, and Curry vs. Wall

Mike Prada of SB Nation's Bullets Forever had a great piece up on Friday describing the good and the bad from the Washington Wizards' statistical profile thus far this season and one thing stood out as particularly dangerous about this team as a Golden State Warriors fan: the Wizards like to force turnovers and (I probably need not remind you that) the Warriors commit a lot of turnovers.

I actually asked Albert Lee about that aspect of the matchup for today's earlier Q&A but it fit so well with the theme of this game that I just saved it for the preview (all numbers are for games through Jan. 3):

As you mentioned, the Wizards are in the Top 10 in the NBA in forcing turnovers while on defense this season, and that should be a concern for the Warriors, who are second in the league in turnovers with 17.4 per game, and Stephen Curry is averaging over 4 per game alone.

However, the Wizards' defense may have become overdependent on forcing turnovers instead of playing more conservatively to force the opposition into taking inefficient shots like long twos.  Last year the Wizards were in the Top 10 for field goal and three point field goal percentage defense.  They even had a defensive rating in the Top 10.  This year, they're in the bottom 10 in FG% and 16th in defensive rating though they've remained in the middle of the league for  three point field goal percentage defense.

At least part of that may be because Emeka Okafor is no longer on the team, as he was traded to the Phoenix Suns for Marcin Gortat right before the regular season (Okafor suffered a neck injury which was a major reason why, along with his expiring contract this year which is worth over $14.5 million).  This post by Umair Khan gives a more detailed breakdown on their defensive schemes since Okafor left, where the team has often made many switches which lead to mismatches to their disadvantage.

In other words, forcing turnovers might be considered the best part of the Wizards defense. If a team doesn't give them the ball by way of turnovers, the defense has weaknesses that can be exploited. That makes figuring out what the Warriors have to do to win this game pretty simple (broken record warning).

Three keys to a Warriors win

Turnovers (copied and pasted from my previous preview): The Warriors have dropped to remain 30th in the league in turnover percentage (15.5% 15.7%). And so many of the Warriors' turnovers come on careless plays that are totally preventable. During stretches when the team isn't turning the ball over, they can play beautiful basketball. If Steph Curry can keep his turnovers down at the very least, that could go a long way to getting a win.

Today's addendum: Keeping the Wizards out of transition could help to expose some of their other weaknesses, which Prada already outlined.

Move the ball instead of relying on isos: If indeed mismatches are going to happen, it might be tempting to isolate the mismatch to have them take their man one-on-one. Yet if this is an opponent without a strong rim protector and they're vulnerable to breakdowns when they switch, limiting isolation plays to punish their inability to rotate out to shooters and defend the basket off cuts might be wise.

#FullSquad: The Warriors beat the Wizards in D.C. last season without Andrew Bogut and a 1-for-7 performance from Harrison Barnes. Both teams are different now, but if their interior defense is generally inferior this season the Warriors should be able to exploit that and get some high percentage buckets. Hard to see the Warriors losing this one if Bogut records another double-double.

- - -

It's probably tempting to tune this one out in favor of watching the San Francisco Niners pull of another win against the Green Bay Packers (which, let's be honest, is far more awesome than a Wizards game). But if there's any reason this one is worth watching it's because the NBA's longest winning streak is on the line against a team that could really test one of the Warriors' biggest and most persistent weaknesses on the road. A Wizards win would very likely be an ugly game, but still a game that we could learn something from.

That said, if you're really into the Niners game, the folks at Niners Nation have you covered and then some.

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