A disturbing pattern of performance emerged long before the final buzzer sounded on the Thunder’s stunning 95-93 loss to Brooklyn on Thursday night, the second straight game in which Oklahoma City blew a 16-point lead on its home floor.
It began in the first quarter, when a leaky defense and an erratic offense allowed the Nets to make 55 percent of their shots and score 29 points — seven fewer than they mustered by halftime two nights earlier at San Antonio.
But two plays in particular personified the sloppiness the Thunder tried to skate by with before ultimately being forced to accept a humbling defeat, which came courtesy of a 19-foot jumper by Nets guard Joe Johnson over Serge Ibaka as time expired.
Jeremy Lamb supplied both.
With the ball in his hands and the Thunder having a chance at the final shot down one with the shot clock off, the second-year shooting guard instead used a Nick Collison screen on the right wing and settled for a 3-pointer with eights seconds showing.
At the other end, Nets guard Alan Anderson didn’t. He drilled a 21-footer to push Brooklyn’s lead to three.
Twenty-four minutes later, Lamb was inbounding the ball after a made Nets basket with 0.9 seconds left in the third quarter. The Thunder held a 77-63 lead. But Lamb tried sailing a pass to a streaking Perry Jones III. The ball was intercepted, and Deron Williams had just enough time to fling a desperation 3-pointer that rattled around the rim before dropping through the net.
In between those two periods, the Thunder closed the half with back-to-back turnovers in the final 36 seconds, squandering more opportunities to create separation.
“We have to do a better job, definitely, of protecting leads,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “That’s the second game in a row that we didn’t do a good job of closing quarters and closing games out. That’s something that we have to do a better job of, especially on our home floor.”