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Carlson: Coach Brooks, how about some strategy advice from press row?

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 22, 2011

A dozen points in the first quarter of a game in the Western Conference Finals? That won't cut it.

Even though Harden managed only seven points on Saturday night, he's much more of an offensive threat than Sefolosha.

Brooks even said before Game 3 that there would be serious consideration given to starting Harden next season. Why not pull the trigger a little early?

In the event Brooks is worried about losing defense by substituting Harden for Sefolosha, he could really go wild and start Nick Collison instead of Serge Ibaka. In this series against the Mavs, Collison has proved to be a nightmare for Dirk Nowitzki. He has played all-world defense, and throwing him out there early might slow Nowitzki even more.

“When it's not going (well),” Brooks said, “I usually sub James in pretty quick — usually, he gets in there with six minutes to go — then we try to generate some points that way. Then, Nick comes in right after.”

Why not just start with those guys with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins — a lineup that plays together later in games regularly — and see what happens?

Brooks probably worries that a move like this could screw with the chemistry of his team, the youngest in the playoffs. After all, this is only the biggest game of the season. But you can't sit Westbrook and Co. the entire fourth quarter of a playoff game, then play the chemistry card.

This doesn't have to be a permanent change either. The starting lineup could revert to form if the Thunder makes the NBA Finals, but right now against these Mavs, a change seems feasible.

Is it bold?

Yes, especially for Mr. Consistency.

Is it daring?

You bet, but it couldn't possibly be any worse than what we saw Saturday night.

Is it maybe even a bit dangerous?

Potentially, but this team always talks about playing for each other. If that's really true, if that's not lip service, the starters who have to come off the bench won't sulk about it.

Collison, for one, is convinced that a slow start won't be an issue in Game 4.

“I just think the desperation of the series will do it,” he said. “I think we'll play better. It should be obvious to everyone how important all of these games are, and I think we'll play better.”

Brooks said: “The effort could have been better, but a lot of it was Dallas. They forced us out of our comfort zone. A lot of times that's what the game's about — forcing you to do things that you're not comfortable doing.”

Want to throw off the Mavs and take Dallas out of its comfort zone?

Pretty sure Mr. Consistency trotting out a different starting lineup would do the trick.

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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