Oklahoma City Thunder: Scotty Brooks’ fatal mistake
Kevin Durant drove to a dunk that drew the Thunder within 96-95 with 44 seconds left in the game, and you thought maybe the Boomers’ all-game climb might end in glory. Thought the Thunder might knock off the Heat in front of the biggest crowd in Miami indoor history and a snowed-in, nationwide audience watching the NBA’s two best teams.
But in those final 44 seconds, especially the next 19 seconds, Miami had a huge advantage. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had his best players on the floor. Scotty Brooks did not.
Miami called timeout, and for the game’s biggest possession, Spoelstra inserted Ray Allen for Shane Battier. That gave the Heat a lineup of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Allen. Brooks stayed with his lineup of Durant, Westbrook, Kevin Martin, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.
With the shot clock winding down, LeBron had the ball isolated on the left wing. Through switches, Westbrook guarded LeBron, which frankly, is not the worst matchup for the Thunder. No Boomer really can handle LeBron alone. Durant was dogging Wade. Martin was on Allen. Perk defended Bosh. And Ibaka was on Chalmers.
Forget everything else, for a moment. Ibaka was guarding Chalmers not because of switches. Ibaka was guarding Chalmers because Brooks chose to keep two big men on the floor, while the Heat had just Bosh. Ibaka is a wonderful player, with so many attributes it’s probably not fair. Someone asked me Tuesday if Ibaka is a better player than Bosh, straight up, and the answer is yes. Ibaka is better. But when Ibaka is guarding Chalmers 25 feet from the basket, Ibaka’s value is diving toward nil.
OK, so you know what happened next. Perkins, sensing that LeBron was about to drive on Westbrook, moved over to help against the surely-coming attack. Bosh zipped to the basket, no Thunder teammate rotated, LeBron’s pinpoint pass found Bosh for an easy dunk and virtually every blue jersey sniped at Martin for not rotating, though I didn’t see why Martin was in any better shape to rotate than was Durant.
When Durant and Westbrook missed 3-point shots on the next possession, the game was over.
But here’s my question. With 44 seconds left in the game, after a timeout, with a Heat possession in which OKC absolutely had to have a stop to have its best shot at victory, why was the Thunder’s best defender not on the floor? Why was Thabo Sefolosha sitting on the bench?
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