Your move, Scott Brooks.
During the first round of these NBA Playoffs, you changed your starting lineup, something that you never do. But it turned a key, unlocking your team and spurring it on to victory. It was spot on. It was much needed.
You’re going to need a similarly brilliant move this round.
But you can’t wait until Game 6 like last time; at this rate, there won’t be a Game 5. Your team looked totally unprepared in the series opener against the Clippers on Monday night.
Clippers 122, Thunder 105.
And it really wasn’t that close. Los Angeles led by as many as 29 points, and when you’re down that much, everyone has to shoulder some blame and do better next time. Superstars. Role players. Managers. Pom girls. But the leader of the band has to be you, Coach.
“It’s one game,” you said after the game. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t play well tonight, but it’s one game.”
You were addressing a question about your bench’s poor play when you said that, but that assessment holds for everything that happened Monday night. There were times when your squad looked like it had no idea that the Clippers like to shoot a lot of threes and throw a lot of ally-oop lobs.
It was unacceptable.
Before the game, you said that because your coaching staff had less than 48 hours before the series finale against Memphis and the series opener against Los Angeles, there were lots of cups of coffee involved in the preparation.
Well, you might need to call Starbucks and see if they can send over a tanker before Game 2.
Obviously, not even the best coach on the planet could have guessed that Chris Paul would have a night like he did. He hit the first eight threes that he attempted. No player has ever done that in the history of the NBA Playoffs.
He finished 8 of 9 from deep, scored a game-high 32 points and admitted after the game that it goes down as one of the greatest nights of his career. He even joked about his shooting prowess.
“Don’t count on it for Game 2, I’ll tell you that,” he said.
But even with that, everyone knows that Paul is the catalyst for the Clippers. Slowing them starts with keeping a thumb on the crafty point guard.
There was no thumb or finger of any kind on him Monday night.
“He knew we needed a good start,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “and he got one for us.”
Paul’s first three tied the game at 16, and the Thunder never led again. Never showed many more signs of life either.
The offense wasn’t awful. When you score 105 points and shoot 45.9 percent, you’re doing something right. But the defense? The Clippers shot 54.9 percent, but it felt like 94.9 percent. So many open looks. So many uncontested shots.
“They were feeling comfortable,” Brooks said. They’ve got good players, and we didn’t make them feel us.”
Maybe you and your staff devised a great plan on defense and the players failed miserably to execute it. That’s entirely possible. But still, something needs to change. The plan. The matchups. The message. Something. If not, this is going to be a really short series for your team.
I mean, by the fourth quarter, things were so out of hand that you had raised the white flag and sent in the scrubs, Coach. Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones got the playoff minutes that some fans have been crowing for, but they came under circumstances that no one wanted.
This series is supposed to be a great one. Close games. Great performances. But what we saw Monday night was the opposite of that.
It was a clunker, especially for anyone in Thunder blue.
And Coach, if that doesn’t change and quickly in Game 2, this series might be over before it ever gets back to Oklahoma City.
“We’ve got to make some adjustments,” you admitted after the game.
They could be adjustments in attitude or scheme or focus or all of the above. But whatever needs to be done, it starts with you, Coach.