Under interim coach Scott Brooks, smaller has been bigger, production-wise.
Since "going small” two weeks ago when Brooks replaced P.J. Carlesimo, the Thunder is averaging almost 10 more points a game.
"We’re creating a lot of mismatch problems for other teams,” said Jeff Green. "Against Memphis it forced them to take out (Marc) Gasol and Darko (Milicic). Hopefully we can continue to play well and create more (matchup problems).”
Brooks claims it’s not a philosophical change, that he will sometimes play 7-foot centers depending on matchups. But 10 days into his tenure it’s clear the former NBA backup point guard prefers a quicker, smaller lineup, a trend that should continue tonight in Charlotte.
It’s more than scoring in transition. The half-court offense has improved. Brooks has emphasized better spacing, which has allowed players to attack the rim. In Saturday’s win at Memphis, the Thunder went to the line a season-high 38 times.
"There will be times we can get away with playing small,” Brooks said. "It will be a game-by-game decision. What we want to do is whatever we play — small or a traditional lineup — that we play hard.”
After Carlesimo was fired, Brooks immediately made changes. He inserted Damien Wilkins in the starting lineup, moved Kevin Durant to small forward and Jeff Green to power forward.
Last Saturday, he flip-flopped point guards. Russell Westbrook is starting. Earl Watson is coming off the bench. Center Johan Petro is sitting the bench. Nick Collison’s playing time has been reduced.
So far, the offensive improvement has been staggering.
In 15 games under Carlesimo, the Thunder averaged 88.