SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Another crazy night on the road for OKC. Another angry crowd. Another opponent taking dead aim at the NBA's best record. Another post-midnight finish for fans watching on television back home.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, not another victory.
The Sacramento Kings closed out the game with a 19-6 scoring spurt to post a 106-101 victory before a sellout crowd of 17,317 at Power Balance Pavilion.
The scrappy Kings were the opponent, but OKC's primary foe once again was turnovers.
The Thunder committed 23 turnovers, which Sacramento transformed into 28 points, which is 18 more points than OKC got off the Kings' 12 turnovers.
"It's unbelievable," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, shaking his head at his team's gargantuan turnover total that now stands at 441 through 26 games for an average of 17.0 per – easily the worst clip in the NBA.
Unlike it frequently has done all season, OKC was unable to overcome its biggest shortcoming against Sacramento.
The flawed Thunder failed close this one out, blowing a 95-87 lead in the final five minutes.
"I thought we had things under control at that point," said Daequan Cook, whose 3-pointer had given OKC the eight-point advantage. "I thought we had set the tone, but we didn't keep fighting. We had a couple of lapses on defense."
The loss dropped OKC to 20-6 on the season and lifted the Kings to 10-16 while playing for their second coach in Keith Smart.
"I wouldn't say it was a shocker," Thunder veteran forward Nick Collison said of the outcome. "We've been getting by (with too many turnovers), but I think if you play long enough you know it's hard to do that every single night. You've got to give Sacramento a lot of credit. They outplayed us tonight."
The setback overshadowed a 33-point effort from point guard Russell Westbrook on the same day he was selected as a reserve for this month's All-Star Game in Orlando. Westbrook's performance was marred by seven turnovers, including two in the final minute of play.
"It's tough to lose," said All-Star starter Kevin Durant, who had 27 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. "No time to panic. I know that for sure. We play a tough team tomorrow (Utah) in another tough arena. Tonight was like a playoff atmosphere."
Also overshadowed was Serge Ibaka tying a career-high with 10 blocked shots before fouling out with 1:05 left. The Thunder set a Seattle franchise record with 17 blocks on the night.
"We scout and we know they liked to drive," Ibaka explained in broken English. "That's why I tried to be there every time."
James Harden added 17 points off the bench, but it wasn't enough overcome the rejuvenated Kings, who are on a roll under Smart, winning four of their last five.
"We know what's expected out of our group, night in and night out," Harden said. "We just didn't do it tonight. Too many turnovers – first half, second half, at crucial times in the game. Too many charges, things like that, things we can control."
After trailing by nine on two occasions early in the game, the Thunder quickly stabilized and wound up trading punches the rest of the night.
OKC built a 77-70 lead with 1:24 left in the third quarter, but allowed the Kings to go on a 10-1 run to lead 80-78 early in the fourth quarter.
Six straight empty possessions after Cook's 3-pointer gave the Thunder an eight-point advantage allowed Sacramento to creep back to within 95-94 with 2:42 left.
The Kings outscored the Thunder 30-23 in the final period, including a 10-2 margin at the free-throw line. Sacramento also outrebounded the Thunder 13-7 in the final period, which included five offensive rebounds. On the night, the Kings had 17 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points.
"This can't continue to happen," Brooks said, shaking his head again.