Washington Wizards Preview: 3 Keys To Beating The Oklahoma City Thunder


So, Tuesday night’s game involving the Washington Wizards is pretty important, according to a few people. Some guy named Kevin Durant whom the team is desperately trying to attract — like that girl you loved in middle-school, even though she might not feel the same way about you — is coming to town.

In order to impress that girl, the Washington Wizards — who are playing the role of an awkward adolescent — have to string together some meaningful wins. Lately, they’ve been taking some bumps and that girl has noticed. How many times will you fall in the hallway before that girl is finally fed up with your weirdness?

/end terrible analogy

But seriously, Kevin Durant is returning to the nation’s capital for what could be his last game in town out of a Wizards uniform. Washington has dropped two straight in disappointing fashion. They’re back home now, though, so we’ll pretend those two embarrassments never happened.

The Thunder have been up-and-down so far and the Washington Wizards have a solid chance at redemption.

Here are three keys to victory:

Stop turning the ball over…just…stop

Randy Wittman‘s club has turned the ball over more times than any team in the league thus far. The Thunder are third in turnovers per game, so they’ve been bad too, but not quite as bad as Washington.

The turnovers, at this point, have become a legitimate concern.

John Wall is doing weird things that he hasn’t done since he was a rookie. Instead of controlling the pace, he’s often times running ahead of himself and causing turnovers that otherwise would’ve been avoided. The wings are failing to get to the corners in transition and the Wizards are blatantly chucking the ball out of bounds. Those are all issues that are correctable, thankfully.

Going forward, the Washington Wizards have to do a better job of regulating their “pace-and-space” offense. I’m all for improved spacing and outside shooting, but right now, it’s completely discombobulated. Kris Humphries looks super uncomfortable on the perimeter and Jared Dudley has lost his three point shot.

Washington has to value every single possession. The careless dribbling, tough passes and not recognizing where teammates are has to end. Teams have taken advantage and Washington has put themselves in a tough position to win in every contest so far.

Let’s just forget those 50 combined turnovers in the past two games ever happened. It’s a new day, after all.

Run forward, but then run back

The Washington Wizards have done a solid job of pushing the pace, but they’ve often found themselves not running back on defense.

John Wall and Bradley Beal have been tremendous at contesting shots in transition and have even made some highlight-worthy blocks as a result.

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Their teammates, though, haven’t done the same.

This issue has been coupled with their turnovers.

If they haven’t been committing this many live-ball turnovers, then running back on defense wouldn’t be a real issue.

Everyone, including the bigs, have to do a better job of stopping the ball in transition.

The likes of Durant, Russell Westbrook and virtually everyone else on Oklahoma City’s roster thrive in transition. I couldn’t imagine having to get in front of Westbrook while he’s dribbling it up the court in a fastbreak situation. That can be avoided if turnovers aren’t an issue.

Stop. turning. it. over.

Make life difficult for Durant and Co.

This is such a cliche key to victory.

So, Ben, tell me more about having to defend Kevin Durant — a former MVP and arguably the best offensive player in the league…

OK, I will.

Durant is going to make tough shots, just like LaMarcus Aldridge did this past Wednesday and just like any other star player will. But, you can live with those shots if they’re contested and out of rhythm.

When Carmelo Anthony dropped 37-points on the Wizards earlier this season, I was completely comfortable. Why? Because Washington didn’t allow Anthony to get any clean looks. When he’s hitting fadeaways from the perimeter, all you can do is move on to the next play.

Durant is going to get his shots and so is Westbrook.

Even though they’ve added some help on the offensive end of the floor, namely Enes Kanter, they’re still going to carry the team. Washington doesn’t have a Trevor Ariza on their roster anymore. Otto Porter is going to be stuck with the match up and Dudley will help out as well. It’s just a matter of getting a hand up and making it tough — that’s all you can ask for against superstars.

Next: Assessing a Wacky Week of Wizards Basketball

Friday’s game is going to be full of #KD2DC references and whatnot. People will wear t-shirts with Durant’s face on it, chant his name and the hashtag when he comes out and Steve Buckhantz will certainly make a joke about it. But, jokes aside, the Washington Wizards have to play better basketball. #KD2DC doesn’t matter, really. As Nithin pointed out, the Wizards will be fine with or without Durant. Let’s just get the “w” and forget last week ever happened.