x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Turnovers strike Oklahoma City Thunder's title chances

Averaging almost 17 per game, the Oklahoma coach Scott Brooks says his side "have got to fix it".

Scott Brooks, left, the Oklahoma City coach, talks to Kevin Durant during a break against the Atlanta Hawks in which the Thunder conceded 21 turn overs on Friday as they lost 97-80. Erik Lesser / EPA
Scott Brooks, left, the Oklahoma City coach, talks to Kevin Durant during a break against the Atlanta Hawks in which the Thunder conceded 21 turn overs on Friday as they lost 97-80. Erik Lesser / EPA

Don't you just love 'em? Aren't the Oklahoma City Thunder just about the most exciting NBA team going? All athletic and youthful and aggressive. Thunder and lightning, very, very frightening.

Last season the Thunder were a great discovery, a hungry team on the rise behind two of the game's best young players - Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook - who were surrounded by a cast of exciting, agile, hardworking players.

When the Thunder fell in the second round of the play-offs to the Dallas Mavericks, the eventual NBA champions, it was viewed more as part of a learning curve than a grand disappointment. The future was nothing but bright.

So with most of the NBA's top West teams going a tad grey, the Thunder came into this season dubbed the conference's next big thing. And they have mostly lived up to expectations, earning the best record in the Western Conference (29-8).

Yet people who are getting giddy at the thought of a Miami Heat-Oklahoma Thunder finals, might want to pause. As strong and impressive as the Thunder have looked, there are chinks in their armour.

Most of which were on display on Friday when they fell 97-80 to an Atlanta team playing without their All-Stars Joe Johnson and Al Horford. When Durant and Westbrook go cold - as they did against the Hawks, combining to miss the Thunder's final five shots - Oklahoma struggle.

But that is far from the main concern. The Thunder had 21 turnovers against the Hawks, and it was not even an anomaly. They lead the league in turnovers, averaging almost 17 per game.

"We got to fix it," said Scott Brooks, the Thunder coach. "We're working on it. But we got to figure that out because it's going to be hard to win night in and night out the way we turn it over.

"We are an attack team. We are an aggressive team. I understand that. But we still have to be solid with our decisions."

Durant and Westbrook are the top scoring duo in the NBA, even surpassing Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. But no other two players turn the ball over as much, either.

Westbrook, the point guard, is second in the league to New Jersey's Deron Williams, averaging 4.1 turnovers per game. Durant is seventh in the league, averaging 3.6 turnovers.

There are other reasons to be mindful before jumping on the Thunder's bandwagon.

In the East, the only team seen as a threat to the Heat are the Chicago Bulls. But the West boasts the Mavericks, as well as past champions San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers. There does not look to be an easy first-round game in the West.

sports@thenational.ae