The NBA team with the most turnovers in one game (regular season and playoffs)

James Harden has NBA record for most turnovers by a player in one game with 13

Last night I watched as the Philadelphia 76er’s not only cough up a 20 point lead, but vomited up 26 turnovers on their way to losing a game they should have won against the Milwaukee Bucks. To commit 26 turnovers usually means your key players have four plus turnovers each. Last night it the perpetrators were Joel Embiid (seven), Ben Simmons (six) and JJ Redick (five).

Twenty-six turnovers may not seem like a lot of turnovers, but it is a lot of turnovers seeing as most teams average between 13-14 turnovers per game.

Hearing that stat broad casted last night made us curious about NBA history; specifically which team accumulated the most turnovers in one game. Basically who was the sloppiest of the sloppy? Turns out that 26 turnovers is near perfection when compared to the San Francisco Warriors.

The Most Turnovers by One Team in an NBA Game (Regular Season)

If there’s one stat that might best indicate if a team lost or not is the amount of turnovers they committed in the game. This isn’t based on any data (yet), but in my time watching NBA basketball, or basketball in general, anytime a team surpasses 20 turnovers, the likelihood of winning that game isn’t great. It’s not just the extra possessions that the opponent gets, but it says something about the chemistry on the court — at least for that game. So which NBA team has the most turnovers in one game in NBA history?

1. San Francisco Warriors: 45 Turnovers vs. Boston Celtics (March 1971)

Some Warriors fans think that the current roster has a turnover problem, but their woes are nothing compared to the Warriors that played the Celtics in a regular season match back in 1971. The season before they changed their geographic moniker to ‘Golden State’ that Warriors team recorded an NBA record (and completely insane) 45 turnovers in one game. The exact date of the game is not known by the internet as the two official sites that one relies for this kind of data has two different dates.

NBA.com says that turnover-Woodstock happened on March 19 while Basketball Reference shows the only time the Warriors played the Celtics in March of 1971 happened on March 9. As you can see from the link, this was before official turnover stats were kept so we couldn’t confirm. If Basketball Reference is to believed, the Warriors lost that game 134-112 – and we’re surprised they didn’t lose by more than 22 points.

The Celtics’ John Havlicek (37 points) and Jo Jo White (32 points) benefited the most from San Francisco’s turnovers.

NBA Teams with Most Turnovers in One Game
Team Turnovers Date Year Win/Lost
San Francisco Warriors 45 March* 1971 Lost
Philadelphia 76ers 38 October 22 1976 Lost
Denver Nuggets 38 October 24 1980 Lost
Phoenix Suns 36 November 8 1985 Lost
Golden State Warriors 31 November 09 2000 Lost
Philadelphia 76ers 31 November 18 2015 Lost

Most Turnovers in an NBA Playoff Game: Team Record

The most turnovers by one team in a playoff game? The Chicago Bulls committed 36 offensive sins against the Portland Trailblazers on April 17, 1977. Those exactly three dozen turnovers happened in the decisive third game that eliminated Artis Gilmore and the Bulls from the post season. Bob Gross led that Portland squad with 26 points while Maurice Lucas scored 21.

On May 9, 1995, the Indiana Pacers turned the ball over 33 times in a 95-77 loss to the New York Knicks in that year’s playoffs.

NBA Playoff Records for Turnovers
Year Team Turnovers
1977 Chicago Bulls 36
1977 Portland Trailblazers 34
1995 Indiana Pacers 33
1975 Golden State Warriors 31
1970 Los Angeles Lakers 30
1975 Washington Bullets 29
2018 Philadelphia 76ers 27

What about the NBA Finals? Surely the high level would see a reduced number of turnovers?  Not so.

Turns out that 1977 playoffs was a turnover festival as the most turnovers committed in the NBA Finals game also happened during that post-season. This time, the Portland Trailblazers returned the favor on May 22, 1977 by giving back 34 possessions to the Philadelphia Sixers in Game One. The Bill Walton-led Blazers would put that terrible game behind them and go on to win their one and only NBA championship that season.

On May 4th, 1970, the Los Angeles Lakers recorded 30 turnovers against a relentless New York Knicks defense at Madison Square Garden in game 5 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Despite those 30 extra possessions, the Knicks only won that game by seven points, 107-100. Led by Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Dick Barnett and Bill Bradley, that hallowed Knick squad would win the series in seven games. That core, along with Jerry Lucas and Earl Monroe, they would win it again in 1973 — the last time New York City has seen an NBA championship.

The NBA started recording official turnover statistics in the 1977-78 season.

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