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Berry Tramel: Game 7 victory is mandatory for Thunder to feel good about season

by Berry Tramel Modified: May 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm •  Published: May 14, 2011

We all know Game 7 victory will be elevation for Durant and Westbrook, or Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

But this game also will be elevation for Brooks or Lionel Hollins, who have staged quite the chess match through six games.

Hollins trying whatever pops in his head. Shifting Tony Allen over to Westbrook instead of guarding Durant. Starting O.J. Mayo, who had been banished to a reserved role for months.

Brooks' idea of a radical move is having his assistant coaches swap seats at halftime.

There is something to like about both styles.

In the playoffs, you can't assume everything will work the way it does in the regular season. In the playoffs, you've got a good opponent every game and the same opponent every game. So if you don't try something new, you might get up close and personal with a brick wall.

Of course, coaches who are steady instill stability and confidence. You know what you're getting with Brooks. James Harden and Collison know they are coming in mid- to late-first quarter. The B teamers know Brooks will play them all together, maybe twice. Durant knows he'll play some power forward while the Thunder goes small.

Players know their roles and get no surprises. There's something to be said for that.

“We make adjustments,” Brooks said. “We don't tell the world what we're doing.

“We're not going to change our starting lineup. We've gotten this far with a good mix of guys playing their roles. I don't believe changing our lineup makes us better.”

Heck no. In fact, starting Mayo actually helps the Thunder, since Thabo Sefolosha's biggest problem this series is no one to guard. With Mayo on the floor, Thabo's got someone he can chase around.

Coaches in the NBA never are as important as players, not even if they date the owner's daughter or light up a cigar on the bench.

But this Game 7 could be a status changer for Brooks. Coach the precocious Thunder to the West finals, and we might have to start getting serious about the kind of job he's done and doing.

Coach the precocious Thunder to Game 7 victory, and Brooks will have done more than improve his already-good name. He will have stamped this Thunder season as an absolute success.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at