After playing only 22 minutes and being a bench warmer for the final 1 ¼ quarters of the Thunder’s game 1 loss in the WCF to the Spurs, Coach Scott Brooks recognizes he made a mistake playing the NBA’s leading shot blocker in limited minutes.
“I think every decision you make, if it doesn’t work out, you say, ‘Why’d you do that?’ and I’m right (there) with you on that.”
Brooks’ reasoning for playing Ibaka in limited minutes was to use a smaller lineup with Kevin Durant at power forward to stretch the Spurs defense, and Brooks played Perkins at the Center instead of Ibaka.
“We’ve done it in the past and have had a lot of success, so you can’t really look back and beat yourself up too much … but I will,” Brooks said. “It was nothing against what Serge did. Going into the next game, I see him playing his normal minutes.”
Ibaka’s impact on the game was felt in the limited time, as he had 5 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and not to mention his presence to alter shots at the rim.
This is a decision that helped tremendously contribute to OKC game 1 loss. Coach Popovich took advantage of Ibaka not being in the game by having the Spurs constantly attack the rim and expose the slower footed Kendrick Perkins in pick and roll situations.
This decision led to 39 fourth quarter points, which is unheard of in a Conference Finals. The key is for Brooks to learn from his mistakes, which it appears he has. He knows the smaller lineup will not work against the Spurs like it does against most NBA teams, and that he needs to stick to what got the Thunder the 9 point lead going into the 4th quarter.
Game 2 is a must win for both the Thunder and the Spurs, and the game that could decide who will move on to the NBA finals.