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Oklahoma City Thunder: Why a lineup change might be in order for Game 3

With the first string struggling so mightily, a change to the starting lineup could be in order. And Thunder coach Scott Brooks at Saturday’s practice spoke as if changes are indeed on the horizon.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 24, 2014

Two games. Three starters. Nine points.

That’s all you need to know about the state of the Oklahoma City Thunder sans Serge Ibaka.

In two games, three Thunder starters have combined to score nine points. It’s become an embarrassing stat that has exposed Oklahoma City’s offense in the Western Conference Finals for being overly reliant on stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

With the arrival of Game 3 on Sunday night, something seemingly must change.

The preferred solution is for players to simply play better. But the Thunder appears to be well beyond that. With the first string struggling so mightily, a change to the starting lineup could be in order.

And Thunder coach Scott Brooks at Saturday’s practice spoke as if changes are indeed on the horizon.

“We’ve made changes before, and I think definitely we have some time to think about that,” Brooks said. “I don’t have to get into the specifics right now…We have some time. We’ll see.”

Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison have totaled nine points on 4-for-19 shooting in these first two games. Perkins has supplied seven of those points.

That defensive-minded trio has made things tougher on Westbrook and Durant on the offensive end, as the Spurs have dared those role players to beat them while focusing on the Thunder’s two stars.

They’ve been unable to.

Sefolosha is scoreless in the series, missing all nine of his shots, and Collison is 1-for-5 from the field.

They’ve left the Thunder searching for answers.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Durant said Saturday when asked how OKC can win like this. “It’s tough. We got to help. Russell and myself have got to do a better job.”

Their best efforts haven’t been nearly enough. In fact, their inclination to do more has played right into the Spurs’ hands.

Of the 18 lineups Brooks has used in this series, the Thunder’s starting unit is by far the team’s worst despite playing the bulk of the minutes. In 23 minutes, that group has been outscored by 14 points and is shooting 32.6 percent. No other group has played more than nine minutes.

The dilemma for Brooks is that lineup has been one of the team’s best defensive units in this series. Of course, that’s not saying much in this case, but for what it’s worth the first string has yielded 47.8 percent shooting. Sounds high until you consider San Antonio is shooting an eye-popping 53.8 percent in the series thus far.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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