ATLANTA — Serge Ibaka caught the ball on the left block with his back to the basket. He paused for a moment, sizing up his defender before going into his move. It was a good start to what seemed to be a sound strategy to create an easy bucket.
But when he started his attack, Ibaka shuffled his feet and was called for traveling.
It was the first possession of the game. Just 13 seconds had ticked off the game clock.
There couldn't have been a more telling beginning.
The Thunder dropped a 97-90 decision to Atlanta on Saturday inside Philips Arena because, once again, Oklahoma City couldn't take care of the basketball.
Twenty-one turnovers was the final tally. And a short-handed Hawks squad playing without leading scorer Joe Johnson turned those into 22 points. Eight Thunder players had at least one turnover. Seven had at least two.
That's why Oklahoma City left Atlanta with its seven-game winning streak in the rearview mirror.
“We got to fix it,” Brooks said. “We keep talking about it. We're working on it. But we got to figure out that because it's going to be hard to win night in and night out the way we turn it over.”
The Thunder entered the night averaging a league-worst 16.75 turnovers. Saturday marked the 10th time the Thunder finished with at least 20 turnovers.
“We are an attack team. We are an aggressive team. I understand that. But we still have to be solid with our decisions,” Brooks said. “It's unacceptable having 20 turnovers in an NBA game.”
The biggest problem was that the turnovers snowballed into selfishness. Sound play and selfless passing was quickly replaced with myriad isolations and mounting ineffectiveness.
The Thunder finished with a season-low 11 assists, a shockingly low number even for a team that ranks fourth-to-last in the category, but a tell-tale total that displays precisely how OKC got away from trusting the system.
“We had a lot of bad ones,” said Nick Collison. “I had four myself, and I probably only catch the ball four times a game. We were just playing in traffic, trying to do too much.”
In spite of the turnovers — which came in just about every way possible — the Thunder managed to hang around and make yet another game a riveting down-to-the-wire finish.