DALLAS — Scott Brooks went off script.
Mr. Consistency had a night at the improv.
With the Western Conference Finals and his team's playoff future hanging in the balance, the Thunder coach threw away his substitution plan. He left his bigs on the bench. He decided to play a little small ball.
Darn near worked.
The decision to go small helped Oklahoma City build a lead but in the end cost the Thunder the game.
Dallas 100, OKC 96.
On a night that the Thunder showed remarkable heart two days after a devastating meltdown, Brooks showed some guts of his own. He played to his squad's strengths even if it went against the norm. He gave his team its best chance to win even though the decision came with risks.
“I knew that in order to beat this team, we had to keep moving their feet, and we put as much quickness on the floor as possible,” Brooks said. “I thought it gave us a chance to win this game.”
Brooks went small with a little under two minutes left in the third quarter. When he took out Kendrick Perkins for Eric Maynor, he had Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Nick Collison already on the floor. It was a lineup that Brooks hadn't used at all in the playoffs. It was a lineup he hadn't used in months. Westbrook and Maynor played together only a handful of times this season.
Pretty radical stuff for a coach who rarely substitutes his substitution patterns.
And Brooks stuck with it for the entire fourth quarter.
When he went small, the Thunder led by five points, and eight minutes later, the lead hadn't vanished. It had grown to seven.
“I thought the lineup gave us quickness, and it gave us a chance to really drive by them and create opportunity toward the basket,” Brooks said.
His small lineup played to two of the Thunder's biggest strengths — Westbrook and Harden. Those two guys are crazy quick, and Wednesday night, they were in attack mode.
Westbrook went to the basket on his first shot attempt and basket of the night, and he just kept after it. Didn't matter who was guarding him either. Jason Kidd. J.J. Barea. Jason Terry.
Same went for Harden. The reserve guard was as intent on getting to the rim as Westbrook was. He attempted and scored his first points on a drive.