Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Decision 2012: Stubborn Brooks Could Cost OKC Championship

June 16, 2012
By Anthony Tripicchio

Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks will determine the 2012 NBA champion.

After a year of searching for the proper combination, Miami has finally found the right mix in its starting lineup of Chris Bosh, Shane Battier, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers. To counter Miami’s speed and agility, Brooks needs to sit one of his bigs in order to avoid handing James his first title.

Kendrick Perkins was acquired to defend Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum in the post. Against Miami, matchups do not allow for Oklahoma City to play both Perkins and Serge Ibaka together.
Notice how Miami head coach Eric Spoelstra has buried Joel Anthony, his best post defender, in the Finals because there’s no one for him to guard. Brooks doesn’t have to dismiss Perkins to the same extent, but Nick Collison and Ibaka are better suited to play major minutes against the Heat’s small lineup.
Thunder Coach Scott Brooks
Slow starts have plagued the Thunder in each of the first two games as Shane Battier has relished his mismatch against Ibaka and drained open 3-point attempts.  Ibaka, the league’s most prolific shot blocker, excels as a help defender but lacks the lateral quickness to be as effective on the ball against perimeter players. With Ibaka drawn away from protecting the paint, driving lanes have opened for Wade and James.

In the first quarter of Game 2, Miami cruised to a 16-2 lead before Brooks lifted Ibaka for James Harden with 5:13 to play. By this point, Battier had already hit two threes and Wade, James and Bosh totaled four layups and dunks.

Game 1 wasn’t much different besides Udonis Haslem starting for Bosh. Battier chastised the Thunder with three 3-pointers and was instrumental in generating a 20-12 Heat advantage in the contest’s first seven minutes prior to Harden and Collison checking in.

Brooks has tacitly acknowledged that the Thunder’s preferred quintet excludes Perkins because he’s been glued to the bench throughout the fourth quarters of each game. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City decisively won the fourth quarter 31-21 in Game 1 and 29-22 in Game 2 with Collison manning the middle.

Collison may not appear to be physically imposing, but his defensive awareness is unrivaled and he’s consistently an outstanding help defender. Although he’s not a shot blocker, Collison draws vital charges and also alters the shots of penetrators with his impeccable positioning.

Perkins should be replaced by Harden or Collison in the lineup. Harden provides an impactful offensive punch, while Collison presents an alternative if Brooks would rather keep his sixth man on the bench. Either of the two would be improvements over Ibaka in one-on-one situations against Battier.

Derek Fisher offers another veteran option, yet the noteworthy size discrepancy between him and Battier tabs him as an unlikely candidate to check Battier. Defensive assignments would be comprised of Ibaka on Bosh, Kevin Durant on James, Thabo Sefolosha on Battier, Russell Westbrook on Wade and Fisher on Chalmers in that scenario.

This isn’t the time to be preoccupied with placating Perkins’ ego. Oklahoma City must put its best lineup on the floor in the first quarter just as it does in the fourth. Brooks’ intransigence handicaps his team and jeopardizes the Thunder’s chance of celebrating with the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Unless Brooks acquiesces and modifies his group at tipoff, the man who took his talents to South Beach will bring a championship there as well.


Durant refused to take the bait when the media asked if James fouled him on his controversial baseline jumper with the Thunder trailing 98-96 in the waning seconds of Game 2.

“I missed the shot,” Durant said, making no excuses.

Durant’s 33 points in the fourth quarters of the first two games are the most of any player’s inaugural appearance in the Finals since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976.