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Analysis: Durant and defense key to Warriors’ 109-101 victory over the Washington Wizards

Durant scored 32 points while Klay Thompson shut down Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal to give the Warriors their 24th road victory this season.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors played the second game of their three-game road trip to the East Coast on Wednesday night as they faced the Washington Wizards in our nation’s capital.

The Warriors dominated the first and third quarters of the game, ending them both with sizable leads. The Wizards, playing the second game of a back-to-back after defeating the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night, put together runs in the second and fourth quarters to make it close. But ultimately the Warriors proved to be too much as they defeated the Wizards 109-101.

Thompson and Green put the clamps on Beal

With John Wall sidelined, Bradley Beal has stepped up for the Washington Wizards recently. Between his scoring and passing (making sure that “everybody eats”), the Wizards’ All-Star guard has been impressive during this stretch without his backcourt partner.

Against the Warriors, however, Beal was profoundly underwhelming, scoring just eight points on 3/15 shooting. Beal started the game 0/9 and didn’t make his first shot until well into the third quarter. Beal also had five of the Wizards’ sixteen turnovers. The reason for Beal’s struggles on Wednesday night was clear— the defense of Klay Thompson.

Though Thompson had just 13 points, he more than made up for his lack of scoring on the defensive end. Thompson hounded Beal, forcing him into bad shots and mistakes that led to those turnovers.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Washington Wizards
Klay Thompson’s defense on Bradley Beal was outstanding, helping hold the Wizards’ All-Star to just 8 points in the Warriors 109-101 victory.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been said before but it bears repeating—Thompson is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA right now. It can be easily be forgotten given his impressive offensive abilities, but he really is a great defender, which he showed against the Wizards.

Thompson wasn’t the only Warriors player to shine on defense against the Wizards, as Draymond Green played great on that end of the court as well. Green pulled down 6 defensive rebounds, blocked 2 shots, and stole the ball twice to go with his 11 points. In addition to this, Green was always ready to help Thompson on defense with Beal while also battling with the Wizards’ front court of Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat.

Durant shines in front of his hometown fans

Playing just a short distance from his hometown of Seat Pleasant, Maryland, Kevin Durant was dominant against the Wizards. Durant was rolling from the start, scoring 16 points in the first quarter alone, with two of those points coming on this alley-oop from Stephen Curry.

Curry struggled (by his standards) against the Wizards, scoring 25 points but doing so on 5/15 shooting while also turning the ball over six times. But even though Curry was (relatively) off, Durant was more than ready to pick up the slack.

Durant scored 32 points against the Wizards, his thirteenth game with 30 or more points this season. Durant and Curry worked together to create this quick 5-0 run in the third quarter after the Wizards cut the Warriors lead to just seven points.

Durant also made Wizards big man Ian Mahinmi look very foolish on this play at the end of the third quarter.

Iguodala provides offense off of the bench for the Warriors

Another Warrior who’s been playing well recently is Andre Iguodala, who continued this run of good play on Wednesday night. Iguodala scored 14 points against the Wizards, tying a season high for him. Equally impressive, he was 4/5 from the field and made all six of his free throws. At points during the regular season, Iguodala has looked hesitant to shoot, having games where he doesn’t even attempt a field goal. But in the four games after the All-Star break, Iguodala has not only been shooting more but making those shots as well.

In addition to his scoring, Igudoala contributed 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 steal, working on defense with Thompson and Green to hold the Wizards to 40% shooting from the field.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Washington Wizards
Between his scoring and his defense, Andre Iguodala played an important role in the Warriors win over the Washington Wizards.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Defense, some scoring, making passing (3 assists on Wednesday night), this is why Iguodala is so valuable to the Warriors and why they were willing to meet his contract demands this past summer.

Turnovers and offensive rebounds allow the Wizards to hang around

Though the Warriors were dominant throughout most of this game, the Wizards were able to hang around and keep things somewhat close even as the Warriors looked poised to put the game away.

Part of that was because of Otto Porter Jr., who scored 29 points, with 18 points coming in the first half as he was the only consistent offensive player for the Wizards during that stretch. The other reasons the Wizards were able to come back from 15-point deficits were (not surprisingly) Warriors’ turnovers and the Wizards’ ability to get offensive rebounds.

The Warriors finished Wednesday night’s game with 15 turnovers, but most of them came during the second and fourth quarters, allowing the Wizards to cut into the sizable leads the Warriors accrued in the first and third quarters. It felt like, once the Warriors were up by a comfortable margin, their focus wained and they began to make careless plays.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Washington Wizards
Even though he scored 25 points, Stephen Curry struggled against the Wizards, turning the ball over six times.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards were also able to stay within striking distance because of their ability to get offensive rebounds. The Wizards grabbed 18 offensive rebounds against the Warriors, keeping possessions alive. This was particularly bad on possessions where the Warriors’ defensive effort forced a bad shot, only to have the Wizards get an offensive rebound that led to an easier look since the Warriors had expended all that energy already.

Now, the Warriors aren’t a particularly good team when it comes to preventing offensive rebounds, as they allow 11 per game, last in the league, so it’s not all that surprising. Also, the Wizards aren’t a particularly prolific offensive rebounding team either, as they average just under 10 a game and thus this felt like an anomaly or the ball bouncing the Wizards’ way in that regard.

But giving up extra possessions, either by turnovers or giving up offensive rebounds, and allowing the other team to have more chances to score is something that can allow a team to beat the Warriors. Though it didn’t cost them tonight, it is something to continue to keep an eye on as the regular season comes to a close.

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