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OKC Thunder: Scott Brooks could learn from NBA Finals

COMMENTARY — Miami coach Erik Spoelstra and San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich haven't been afraid to change their starting lineups in the NBA Finals, unlike Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 17, 2013

Series tied 2-2. Game 5 in San Antonio. The Spurs' title hopes a little precarious.

So Gregg Popovich got serious. He moved Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup for the first time in what seemed like forever.

Ginobili played great. But so did the Thunder, which prevailed 109-103 and went on to win the 2012 Western Conference Finals.

Lineup shuffling can work. But it's not always a panacea.

Has been in these NBA Finals, of course. Erik Spoelstra summoned Mike Miller to the starting lineup for Game 4. Miller's marksmanship off the bench had sufficiently scared the Spurs to never let him free, the Heat spaced the floor and rolled to easy victory.

Then Popovich countered by starting Ginobili for the first time since that Thunder series a year ago, and Ginobili looked like his old self as the Spurs sprinted to a 3-2 series lead and made Miller's spot in the starting lineup not such a big deal.

We wouldn't know about rearranged lineups here in OKC. Scotty Brooks doesn't change his lineup even under threat of bayonet.

Since Kendrick Perkins arrived from Boston in February 2011, the only deviation from the Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka-Perk-Sefolosha starting five has come courtesy of a doctor's note.

Even when the Thunder clearly needed to adjust its chess pieces — Miami in the 2012 Finals; Houston in the 2013 first round — Foreman Scotty stayed with his starting five.

There is much to admire about consistency. Everyone having a role and sticking with that role is an excellent way to do business. Good for the court. Good for the clubhouse.

If a lineup change could cause chemistry issues, which it might with a young squad, then I see no reason to do it.

The Spurs and Heat are veteran squadrons, and the Thunder is fast getting there. But I have no beef with Brooks sticking with starting Perkins or a big lineup, even in the face of an opponent that doesn't require such a skill set.

As we've seen with Ginobili both Sunday night and last June, a lineup shift can go either way.

Starting is overrated, anyway. It was with James Harden, it's always been with Ginobili, Harden's ancestor as a southpaw sorcerer.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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