But his impactful adjustments weren’t limited to that pregame move. Brooks was great throughout. He divvied up the minutes beautifully, carving out as much small ball as possible and reinserting the energetic Steven Adams into the rotation.
Adams got 20 minutes, 11 more than he had the previous four games combined. And the rookie delivered, blocking five shots and wrecking havoc all over the court.
“I thought he did a great job, just coming in and using his size,” Westbrook said. “He was athletic, running the floor, blocking shots, rebounding.”
One of Brooks’ biggest rotation blunders, at times, has been his willingness to sit both Durant and Westbrook at the start of the second or fourth quarters. In the regular season, maybe, but in the playoffs, it seems wise to always have one of those playmakers leading the offense.
But to start the fourth quarter on Thursday night, even up 21, Brooks kept both his superstars on the court. He didn’t worry about routine. He just went for the kill And it worked.
Durant and Westbrook fought off the Grizzlies final run and, still up 21, exited the game for good with three minutes left.
And that’s when Brooks capped his banner night with a fitting salute to Thunder fans everywhere, subbing in popular reserve Jeremy Lamb as the victory cigar to what was one of the best games of his coaching career.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time.