Although the series has been marked by blowout after blowout, the Western Conference Finals has been chess match between Scott Brooks and Gregg Popovich. While some may believe Brooks is playing checkers to Pop’s chess, the Thunder head coach made some shrewd adjustments to get his team back in the series. Sure, defensive stalwart Serge Ibaka recovered from injury in time for Game 3, but Brooks also inserted Reggie Jackson into the lineup, gave bigger minutes to rookie Steven Adams, and completely benched a few players. The way we see it, Brooks will have to pull a rabbit out of his hat again in Game 6.
So, what changes can the Thunder make to combat the spread-the-floor look that the Spurs befuddled Oklahoma City with in Game 5? The first would be to bench Kendrick Perkins, but that’s something the Thunder boss has never done. He’s really no more than a 15-20 minute per game player anymore, so he’s still locked into the starting lineup. No, Brooks’ rotation changes will likely have to come with his bench personnel. Wing players such as Caron Butler, Jeremy Lamb, and Thabo Sefalosha all should be prepared to play a few extra minutes.
That trio combined for 39 minutes and missed all four of the 3-point attempts on Thursday, but at least one of them HAS to show up tonight. It doesn’t matter whether they miss all threes that they attempt. Brooks must get another wing defender on the floor. If Pop continues to surround Tim Duncan with four shooters, the Thunder cannot have two bigs on the floor at the same time. Another 13-for-26 shooting effort from beyond the arc will mean certain defeat for Oklahoma City. Brooks has been known to make adjustments slowly or not at all, but he must to get them right in this do-or-die Game 6.
Join us tonight at 8:25pm ET to see if Scott Brooks and his Thunder adjust and force a Game 7!