The Thunder won the daily double last season — or rather lost it.
OKC finished dead last in the league in assists (18.5) and turnovers (16.3) in 2011-12.
To do that and still advance to the NBA Finals was nothing short of absurd.
Daily-double losers are lucky to not finish in the conference cellar, yet the Thunder wound up being the Western Conference champs.
“That's mind-boggling,” coach Scott Brooks admitted. “I have no answers for that except that when we really dial in, we usually take care of the ball.”
Four games into the 2012-13, OKC has improved both ends of the daily double.
The Thunder entered Tuesday night's game against the Toronto Raptors ranked 18th in assists (21.0) and 24th in turnovers (17.0). Those rankings don't figure to move much after OKC had 24 assists and 19 turnovers in a 108-88 victory before a sellout crowd (18,203) at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Good ball movement can be breathtaking, and at times against the Raptors, it was precisely that — particularly from point guard Russell Westbrook, who finished with eight assists.
Poor ball movement can be equally as unappealing. The ball sticks in everyone's hands and five games of one-on-one usually follow.
Why is there good ball movement one game and poor movement the next? Do players constantly need to be reminded? Is it because of the opponent?
“That's a very good question,” Thunder forward Kevin Durant said with a smile. “We've seen it in spurts, and there's no excuse for us not to have it there every game.”
Reserve point guard Eric Maynor also smiled while trying to find an answer.
“Hmm, that's a tough one,” Maynor said. “Everybody wants to make the right play. As long as we continue go out there and want to make the right play, I think it's going to happen, more nights than not.”
Veteran forward Nick Collison believes good ball movement coincides with a team's energy level.
“If we're running down into our plays and we're running our plays sharp, the passes are obvious, right?” Collison said. “If we're kind of like going half-speed and the execution isn't crisp, then all the sudden there's not really anything open, guys have to go one-on-one and play in a crowd. So I just think our pace and our energy helps with that. Then it becomes contagious where one pass leads to another, and that's when we're at our best.”
Brooks said his team often responds with good ball movement when it's emphasized in practice, but apparently reminders are required.
“It's like a lot of things, we focus on one area and then we don't focus on the area two or three days prior to that,” Brooks said. “With our group, when we really lock in and move the basketball and play the defense we played (tonight), it's great basketball. We move it. We share it, but it doesn't happen all the time. I can't complain about the ball movement with the small sample size of four games.
“If we could stay at this level the rest of the year, we're only going to get better as the season goes on.”