Scott Brooks didn’t plan on sitting Kevin Durant for 45 seconds in Game 3.
But the brief breather ended up being one of the many ways the Thunder showed mental toughness.
“I even showed that,” Brooks joked. “I took Kevin out for 45 seconds. I didn’t want to do that.”
All jokes aside, Brooks said Durant will get more rest in Monday night’s Game 4.
“I’ll probably rest him a few minutes in the first half,” Brooks said.
While Durant’s 47 minutes and change of playing time looks intense on paper, it is perhaps a bit misleading. Durant was on fire in the first quarter, scoring 17 points to help the Thunder build a 20-point lead against the Rockets after the opening period. Additionally, long timeouts due to the national television broadcasts, coupled with the Thunder being strategic with timeout calls, allowed Durant ample opportunities to catch a break.
“In the second and fourth quarter, there’s a lot of real-time rest,” Brooks said. “But if he has an opportunity to get a few more minutes of rest in the first half I’m going to take advantage of that.”
Durant, though, is taking on much more responsibility with Russell Westbrook out for the playoffs and orchestrating the offense for the majority of the game while playing north of 47 minutes at some point likely will take its toll.
“I feel great,” Durant said before practice Sunday. “I really want to practice. I don’t know if you can tell that. I just try to get as much rest as I can and when the game rolls around, press on the gas and be ready to play. If (Brooks) decides to pull me, or if he decides to keep me in the game, I’m cool with it. I’ve just got to be involved.”
Brooks said Durant actually was down to get a rest early in the second quarter Saturday night. But as Reggie Jackson stood at the scorer’s table waiting to replace Durant, guard Derek Fisher picked up his third foul. Jackson then had to replace Fisher instead of Durant.
“I couldn’t afford to have Fish out there in the first half with three fouls,” Brooks said. “And at the time Reggie had the two fouls so he took Fish’s spot and not KD. So KD would have got six or seven minutes rest and that’s plenty of time for him.”