WASHINGTON — For the second straight night, one streak ended and another continued.
Twenty-four hours after Kevin Durant's 12-game run of scoring at least 30 points concluded at Brooklyn, the Thunder's league-best 10-game winning streak was snapped with a 96-81 upset loss at Washington on Saturday.
It was the third straight loss the Thunder has suffered at Washington, continuing an inexplicable trend of head-scratching performances in the nation's capital. Oklahoma City hasn't won at Washington since March 14, 2011, and is now just 2-4 all-time against the Wizards in D.C.
In 2012, the Wizards halted a seven-game Thunder winning streak with a three-point win. They entered that game just 1-12. Last season, Bradley Beal nailed the game-winning jumper to lift an injury-plagued 4-28 Wizards squad to victory.
This time, the Thunder was outplayed from the start, coming out sluggish and sloppy and losing its only lead of the night after Washington tied the score at 2-2 just 70 seconds into the game.
OKC trailed by as many as 17, and as the final seconds ticked off the clock, a sold-out crowd of 20,356, many of them clad in Thunder merchandise, gave the home team a standing ovation.
“We didn't do a lot of things that we've done on this road trip,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We grew on this road trip. Two of our wins were good wins. Today, I thought we didn't improve tonight, which is disappointing but it's not the end of the world. We've done a good job of bouncing back and getting better.”
Turnovers told the story of the game for the Thunder.
OKC had two in the first two minutes and coughed it up 10 times in the opening period, foreshadowing the kind of night it would be. Five Thunder players had at least one turnover in the first quarter alone, and they came in almost every conceivable way: on sloppy passes, loose ball-handling, an illegal screen and a charging violation.
By night's end, the Thunder had given it away 21 times, leading to 23 Wizards points.
“The turnovers gave them opportunities to score in transition, and it didn't give us a chance to get a rhythm offensively,” Brooks said.
Uncharacteristic carelessness resulted in the Thunder getting outscored 25-13 in the opening period. It was the fewest points OKC has scored in the first quarter this season.
Not much changed in the final three frames, and the end result was the Thunder's worst offensive performance since the second game of the season. OKC's point total tied a season-low, set Nov. 1 at Minnesota.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 26 points with five rebounds and seven assists. But he had five turnovers and lacked the efficiency he displayed throughout his sizzling January. He made just eight of 21 shots.
Serge Ibaka scored 14 points, and Reggie Jackson was the only other Thunder player in double figures. He had 12 points but turned it over eight times while making only six of 17 shots.
John Wall led the Wizards with 17 points, a game-high 15 assists, four rebounds and six steals. After missing all seven of his field-goal attempts in the first half, he scored 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the final 24 minutes.
Washington used a 36-26 third quarter to push a four-point halftime lead to 14 entering the final period. Wall powered the Wizards in the quarter with 13 points and seven assists.
The deficit stretched to 17 twice in the fourth quarter. A steal and transition dunk by Wall with 6:26 left to play gave the Wizards an 89-72 lead, enough for Brooks to sit Durant and Ibaka for the rest of the night.
Back-to-back baskets by Jackson and Jeremy Lamb got the Thunder within 13 with 4:35 remaining, but Brooks chose not to reinsert Durant and Ibaka to see if the league's hottest team had one last bit of magic.
“I took them out,” Brooks said. “We were down 17 with 5:40 to go. I thought that was the right decision.”
The Thunder mounted a rally against these same Wizards on Nov. 10, erasing a 10-point deficit inside the final three minutes of regulation before winning by one in overtime.
Durant said he wanted one more shot to try to pull out the win but figured another comeback against the Wizards would have been tough to replicate on the road.
“I see why coach pulled us,” Durant said. “It didn't look like we had any energy. It looked like we were going downhill. But of course I would have loved to play. … But it is what it is. I'm riding with coach 100 percent. We just got to be better.”