Found June 18, 2012 on
Remember 48 hours ago when Scott Brooks and the Oklahoma City Thunder were determined not to change Russell Westbrook's hyper-aggressive playing style?
No worries. Scott Brooks doesn't remember either.
Sunday night, with the Thunder up six points midway through the third quarter and flirting with taking control of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Scott Brooks decided to temper Westbrook's hyper-aggressive playing style. He benched his All-Star point guard and quite possibly irreversibly changed the momentum of this best-of-seven series.
In the matchup of young head coaches being dragged through the Finals by trios of superstars, Scott Brooks blinked before Erik Spoelstra.
With Kevin Durant already on the OKC bench nursing his fourth foul (a Joey Crawford phantom call on a Dwyane Wade drive) and James Harden in the nasty throes of another miserable Finals shooting performance, Brooks sat Westbrook the last five minutes of the third quarter, foolishly tossing away the Thunder's momentum.
"I took him out a couple of minutes early just to settle him down, and put him right back in," Brooks misremembered. "He had a bad stretch. He turned it over, and he took a tough layup."
He was typical Russell Westbrook, the occasionally out-of-control point guard the Thunder swore they weren't going to change. Well, that all changed Monday night when Brooks sent Westbrook to his room in front of a national television audience.
"That's the coach's decision," Westbrook said. "You gotta live with it."
The Thunder died with it inside AmericanAirlines Arena, losing 91-85 and falling behind the Heat 2-1 in the series.
It was a risky decision based on the hyper-aggressive bet that the Thunder could out-execute the Heat in the fourth quarter. Brooks flew to Miami convinced that if the Thunder kept the game respectable in the first half and within a bucket or two heading into the final 12 minutes, Durant would "out-close" LeBron James and Wade.
Brooks learned a tough lesson Monday night. Every NBA Finals possession is valuable, the ones in the third quarter matter just as much as the ones late in the fourth. Shortly after Brooks benched Westbrook, Derek Fisher completed a four-point play -- drained three and a free throw -- to put the Thunder up 10 points. From there, the Thunder melted the final minutes of the third quarter. OKC's offense -- Durant and Westbrook -- sat and the Thunder couldn't score. Spoelstra left James and Wade on the court and the Heat finished the final 4 minutes, 33 seconds on a 15-3 run. Miami led by two at the end of the third.
Brooks had his one-possession game going into the fourth. He needed a four-possession game in his favor to win.
Oh, Miami was its usual shaky self in the fourth quarter. The Heat turned the ball over eight times and gave OKC multiple opportunities to steal Game 3. But Durant, perhaps frustrated by the foul trouble that is plaguing him throughout this series as he tries to defend James, was off his normal fourth-quarter game. Durant was 2 of 6 from the field and 0 for 2 from the line in the fourth. The Thunder turned the ball over five times. Fisher turned cold in the fourth, missing three of four shots.
OKC needed the hyper-aggressive Russell Westbrook to bail the team out in the fourth.
Brooks benched that Westbrook in the third quarter over a couple of bad possessions.
Absolutely crazy. Westbrook actually was playing a very good game on Monday. He wasn't out of control. Had Brooks sat Westbrook and "put him right back in," there wouldn't have been a problem. The Fisher four-point play and Miami's bad fourth quarters in Games 1 and 2 fooled Brooks into believing he could get away with punishing Westbrook for five minutes.
You have to live and coach in the moment. Durant had to sit because of the four fouls. Harden is in the toilet. Fisher is 37. What he gives OKC is a bonus, not something the Thunder should rely on. Brooks has to win this series with Durant and Westbrook free to screw up. Brooks has to ride or die with Westbrook. Brooks has no choice.
He screwed up Sunday night. Will his mistake linger? Did he damage Westbrook's psyche? Did Brooks add to Miami's confidence?
What was obvious from Westbrook's short, postgame answers to any question is that he's frustrated and pissed. He didn't agree with Brooks' handling of the third quarter. What was also obvious in the post-game media session is that Durant is frustrated with the officiating that keeps limiting his court time.
Adversity in Game 4 could mentally break the Thunder. If James and Wade keep driving the lane and drawing fouls and knocking down free throws, Durant, Westbrook and the Thunder will start believing in the inevitability of LeBron's coronation.
Yep, Scott Brooks' awkward attempt to "change" Russell Westbrook might've changed the entire series. We'll find out Tuesday.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
MIAMI When Russell Westbrook stalked off the court midway through the third quarter and arrived at the end of the bench, he punched the seat cushion he was about to sit on, an act that served as more than an expression of frustration.
It also served as confirmation that once again Westbrook is what's killing the Thunder.
Just kidding well, sort of.
Because for Westbrook...
Welcome to RideThePine.com
Did you happen to see one of the final inbounds plays during Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat? It seems that there was a little miscommunication on Russell Westbrook’s behalf. Let’s go back and look at the huddle just prior to the play.
Hey Russell, maybe next time you should pay attention to the clip board...
The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook is having a tough go in the NBA Finals. His play has been erratic and he’s drawing criticism for his stubborn attitude.
Sound familiar? The Globe’s Gary Washburn draws a comparison between Westbrook and Rajon Rondo.
The difference is… Rondo gets criticized for his lack of aggression, while Westbrook is blasted for dominance of the ball:
Game 3 of the NBA Finals was a potentially huge game for the young Oklahoma City Thunder squad, a game in which they could take the upper hand in what has been a tightly fought series. Much was expected of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the young Thunder in their first road test of the NBA Finals. How did they respond? Durant got into foul trouble and Westbrook...
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a young team. They may still need to learn how to win close games against elite teams in difficult environments. They could learn something by watching to see how their opponent operates. The Miami Heat prevailed over the Thunder in Game 4 on Tuesday night, 104-98, to push LeBron James one win closer to earning his first-ever NBA championship ring. While...
Oklahoma City Thunder’s star point guard Russell Westbrook receives quite amount of flack for being a scoring pont versus being a true point. While his critics will continue to bash him, his ability to score is what drives the Thunder’s success, well, right along with Kevin Durant’s AWESOMENESS! The good folks over at Inside [...]
The future is bright for the Oklahoma City Thunder. While the team's cap situation is not ideal, the core of the team is young, and superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are locked into long-term contracts. But even with the Thunder's trip to the NBA Finals, head coach Scott Brooks is not ready to commit to Oklahoma City's basketball future just yet. Brooks, who...
Scott Brooks likely is not focused on what happens after this season quite yet. In all likelihood, it will take care of itself once the Thunder's season ends -- championship or not.
You still cannot blame Thunder fans for worrying that their head coach will go elsewhere this offseason. And while it's a concern for later, it is still a concern.
Scott Brooks might be the hottest...
LeBron James and the Miami Heat are now only one win away from an NBA Championship.
Despite Russell Westbrook’s 43 points, the Heat went on to a 104-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder giving them a commanding 3-1 series lead, something no other NBA team has been able to overcome in NBA finals history.
LeBron James had 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds before being...
Maybe this is exactly what needed to happen to make this fad die. Adidas has created cartoon versions of OKC Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook complete with matching “personality frames” and snapbacks. Ironically enough, both of these guys are signed to Nike. Guess Adidas scooped them on this one. source
With game three of the NBA finals taking place on Sunday in Miami, I’d like to know who you have winning the style war so far. Lost? Not up on your NBA postgame fashion? Let’s take a quick look at what HE wore for the Heat’s victory over the Thunder – their first home loss [...]
Chris Bosh Can Swallow Anything50) Scott Brooks moved Kevin Durant off LeBron James at the start of the game, because doing the obvious thing is what counts as great strategy in Game Four49) Russell Westbrook started off hot, which meant the Thunder took an early lead for once48) OKC went up 13-3 in the first four minutes, which meant that Heat Fan started checking their cell phones...