Thunder: Scotty Brooks shortens rotation
Scotty Brooks made a subtle adjustment to his rotation Sunday night against the Nuggets. Keep an eye on it as the series progresses.
Brooks played his usual all-bench lineup to open the second quarter, and the fivesome of Nick Collison, James Harden, Eric Maynor, Nazr Mohammed and Daequan Cook played well together.
But when the fourth quarter arrived, Brooks declined to do what he has been doing the last five-six weeks. He did not put in the entire B team. Kevin Durant played in Cook’s stead.
Expect more and more of that as the playoffs deepen. For a couple of reasons.
One, starters can go longer in the playoffs. The travel is lighter, so the players should be more rested. The television timeouts tend to be longer, so guys can get more rest during games.
Second, the stakes are huge. Brooks doesn’t want Denver going on a 10-0 run when Durant is sitting on the bench. A season could be lost over such substitution patterns.
Finally, what works in the regular season doesn’t automatically work in the playoffs. For instance, while Cook hit a couple of shots during his five minutes of playing time Sunday, he also gave up a blow-by layup to Denver’s J.R. Smith, who otherwise was bottled up most of the night. Cook’s defensive deficiencies are more apparent when playing against quality competition.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see the minutes go up for Durant and Russell Westbrook.
And besides, says Nugget coach George Karl, players, not coaches, determine playing time.
“Everybody thinks coaches shorten their bench” in the playoffs, Karl said. “Players shorten the bench.”
Some reserves, “You just can’t play ‘em. In the regular season, you’ll still give ‘em three, four extra minutes, if they don’t play well. But in the playoffs, you gotta get ‘em out of there.”
Karl offered an example. Maynor played very well Sunday night, with 12 points. “But he didn’t get to stay on the court,” Karl said.
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