Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks made a tough decision in Game 2 against the Dallas Mavericks, and it paid off. He boldly decided to sit rising-star Russell Westbrook for the entire fourth quarter, while choosing to go with defensive point-guard Eric Maynor.
Fortunately, it worked, and the Thunder pulled out a 106 - 100 victory.
Ironically, the decision was both simple and genius. The benefit of inserting Maynor into the line-up down the stretch was that it allowed OKC’s true superstar, Kevin Durant, to get the touches he needed in the final minutes to establish a much needed shooting rhythm, which culminated in the win.
Why didn’t Brooks make a similar decision in Game 4?
While Westbrook is an undeniably great talent, it’s obvious that he struggles under late-game pressure and has recently disrupted the flow of Kevin Durant’s game.
Durant is the two time leading scorer of the NBA. His game consists of having the ball in his hands a lot, while taking a lot of shots in hopes of scoring a lot of points. Unfortunately, Westbrook doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo. During crucial periods late in games, he conveniently forgets that he is Robin and Durant is Batman.
Of course, for the sake of the team, the soft spoken Durant won’t publicly say he’s fed up with Westbrook’s antics. That’s not Durant’s style. But it’s obvious that the chemistry isn’t what it used to be. Body language doesn’t lie.
The interaction between Durant and Westbrook seems eerily reminiscent of what we saw in the last series between Dallas and the Lakers. Thankfully, OKC isn’t dealing with the Kardashian-curse, snitching wives, and a power forward playing like the Stay Puft mascot, but this could still turn into a real mess for OKC.
At this point in the playoffs, we shouldn’t even be having a discussion about Westbrook. This is Durant’s team, and there shouldn’t be any doubt that he should have the ball in his hands to close out games. He would be wise to study the late game heroics of Mr. Air Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all-time, who demanded the ball without question down the stretch.
Unless something drastic happens in this series, the Thunder’s chances of winning have dropped faster than Charlie Sheen’s.
Who knows, maybe Cristal Taylor gets bored again and calls Dirk to say she’s pregnant with quadruplets, sending him into a complete mental funk. Anything short of that, and Dirk continues playing like an MVP and Dallas strolls into the Finals.
The good news is that all is not lost for OKC. They have a young team primed for the playoffs for many years to come. But, to reach the ultimate goal of winning a NBA championship, Westbrook has to realize that Durant is the go-to guy in crunch time.
If not, Brooks needs to stick to his guns and let Robin ride the bench.