Thunder players aren’t the only ones picking up lessons in their first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers. Maybe coach Scott Brooks learned a thing or two as well.
It is, remember, his first go-round as the head man during the playoffs. And Brooks made a critical miscalculation late in Sunday’s 87-79 loss to L.A. He stuck to his guns. The coach continued to do what got his team here. Ordinarily, that is sound strategy. In the playoffs, it could spell disaster. And while there was plenty to point to for Oklahoma City staring at a 1-0 deficit in this best-of-7 series, one decision by Brooks could be considered just as costly as anything else. With 1:48 left to play in the third quarter, Brooks replaced Russell Westbrook with Eric Maynor. It was the same roundabout time on the first- and third-quarter clock that Brooks always gives Westbrook a breather. But, at that point, the second-year point guard was bringing the Thunder back and keeping his team in it. Westbrook sat roughly 40 seconds after finding Serge Ibaka under the rim for an uncontested layup. Westbrook scored or assisted on 24 of the Thunder’s last points. Westbrook sat with the Lakers ahead by nine. The Thunder pulled within six with 5.8 seconds remaining. OKC would have had the momentum had Kevin Durant not almost tackled Lamar Odom in the closing seconds of the third quarter and given the Laker forward a free trip to the line to push the lead back to eight entering the fourth quarter. Brooks didn’t reinsert Westbrook until 8:35 was left in the fourth.