Carlson: Scott Brooks had to play a game of risk

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 26, 2011

Westbrook and Harden together terrorized the Mavs. They attacked the rim. They crashed the boards. They looked for teammates.

Westbrook: 31 points, eight rebounds, five assists.

Harden: 23 points, five rebounds, six assists.

“Trying something new,” Harden said, “it was working for us.”

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle called this game the most challenging he'd ever coached, and he pointed to Brooks' adjustments and the Thunder's attacking as the reasons why.

“It was very challenging with all the match-ups and the quickness,” he said. “We went small for awhile, too. We were having success getting shots, but we had no rim coverage and we were struggling to get rebounds.

“So we went back big and basically went with the finishing group that has been pretty much our closing team most of the year.”

Dallas big turned out to be better than Oklahoma City small.

From the time Shawn Marion entered the game and set up Carlisle's end-of-game lineup with 4:19 left, the Mavs outscored the Thunder 13-4.

It came down to some funky mismatches.

Dirk Nowitzki ended up guarding Maynor, who had to guard the savvy 18-year point guard Jason Kidd. Harden had to try to hang with Marion, who is two inches taller and about 10 pounds heavier.

The two most important plays of the game came down to those weird combinations.

With the Thunder ahead four points with three minutes left, it had a chance to extend that lead and really put the Mavs in a bad spot. But Maynor shot a 3-point attempt over the outstretched arms of the 7-foot Nowitzki. It clanged off the rim.

A minute later, the Mavs took advantage of that miss when Marion rose up and hit a little turnaround hook shot over Harden.

That swung the momentum, turning the game and ending the series.

“We just couldn't get stops,” Harden said.

No doubt Brooks' decision to improvise gave the Thunder its best chance to win, to take this series back to Oklahoma City, to play another day.

But in the end, it also gave the Mavs soft spots attack.

They went after them, and in the end, that's why Dallas is headed to the NBA Finals and Oklahoma City is headed home.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
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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