May 20, 2011, 12:20 PM EST
Today, Thunder coach Scott Brooks is getting lots and lots of praise for leaving his bench (with Kevin Durant) out on the court throughout the fourth quarter. Some see it as a rebuke of Russell Westbrook, some as Brooks asserting his authority.
Not from where I sit. To me it’s more simple and pragmantic — he made the move that gave his team the best chance to win Game 2. He saw what was happening on the court and stuck with the guys that had played the best for the Thunder all game. He rode the hot lineup.
That’s not gutsy so much as smart. It may not have been easy considering the athletic talent on the bench, but it is what good coaches do.
The Thunder bench scored 50 points, was 16-of-23 shooting and +21 for the game. They were not playing great defense but they were running more cohesive offensive sets that the Mavericks were struggling to stop. There was no message that needed to be sent to the starters other than that — the bench guys are getting it done.
James Harden showed everyone why he is this team’s Manu Ginobili/Lamar Odom, bringing scoring (23 points) and some swagger off the bench. Not to mention the best beard in the NBA. I think his beard had three points and two boards Thursday night.
Eric Maynor is one of the best backup point guards in the league, he has games like this fairly often. Brooks know what he has and throughout the season has used Maynor more than many coaches use their backup point.
In his postgame comments, Brooks kept saying variations of the same thing, “We were increasing the lead.” He noted he had done it before during the regular season.
Not all coaches would have done it. Some would have stuck to their rotations and had the stars back in at the 6 minute mark of the fourth. But the best ones ride the hot hand.
This wasn’t about messages to Westbrook or some master plan of control. It was winning and evening the series. Simple as that.
And because his moves made to win the game worked, Brooks deserves credit.
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