In addition to their first loss in their last six games, the Boston Celtics came away from their matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday with a stark reminder that taking care of the ball can go a long way toward avoiding defeat.
Most of Boston's problems on Sunday came on the offensive end, as the C's put up just 79 points on 37.7 percent shooting. But even more cringe-inducing than the Celtics' field goal percentage were the 19 turnovers that led to 19 Thunder points. In the first quarter alone, Boston forked the ball over a whopping nine times, which Oklahoma City happily converted into 10 points.
Turnovers haven't been a major issue for Boston this season, though they've handed the ball over far more than they would prefer to of late. For the season, Boston's turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions) is 15.2 percent, good for the 10th lowest figure in the league, according to NBA.com.
The Celtics have even managed to keep their turnovers in check since they lost Rajon Rondo for the season with a torn right ACL. In the 19 games since Rondo's departure, Boston has posted an even more reasonable turnover rate of 14.9 percent. Not being overly guilty in the turnover department has certainly played a factor in the C's posting a 14-5 record since Rondo went down.
But hone in on Boston's last six games and it's almost surprising that they managed to win five of them considering their leap in turnover rate. Over the last six contests, Boston's turnover rate has jumped up to 17 percent, with the biggest culprit games coming against the Golden State Warriors (17 turnovers), the Philadelphia 76ers (a season-high 22), the Atlanta Hawks (16) and the Thunder (19) in that span.
Boston held double-digit leads over Philadelphia and Atlanta in those respective wins, but ultimately had to grind out victories as opposed to winning comfortably. While turnovers didn't play a significant role in the C's sacrificing a 12-point lead to the Hawks, they did factor into the Celtics losing their 15-point fourth quarter lead to the Sixers. Boston committed five turnovers in the fourth frame against Philly, with four of them coming after they held their 15-point edge. The Sixers outscored Boston 25-18 the rest of the way.
Turnovers can never be prevented entirely, but head coach Doc Rivers would likely want to see his players cut back on what he often dubs "careless" turnovers -- the lazy passes and poor decisions that result in the other team taking the ball. The good news is the C's haven't been overly guilty of turnovers this season, but they would certainly like to see their turnover rate resemble the more respectable figure it was before these most recent six games.