Tag Archives: scott brooks

The Russell Westbrook Saga Takes A Turn

Russell Westbrooks dramatic postseason took a weird turn last night.

Russell Westbrook sat down on the bench with less than a minute left to go in the third quarter replaced by Eric Maynor.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were down by three points and had blown a six point lead earlier in the period. Westbrook was frustrated with a botched play call and vented his frustration on the bench.

Seconds later James Harden hit a three and was fouled by Jason Terry.

He hit the free throw to put the Thunder up by one and they never trailed again.

During this time Westbrook never left the bench.

Russell Westbrook has been the NBA playoffs best drama not named the Miami Heat. His overzealousness and self-indulgence in wanting to be the man have tainted the amazing run that the Thunder have had thus far.

Last night it took a turn that I felt should’ve happened earlier in the playoffs yet the timing couldn’t have been better.

Think about how much of a genius Scott Brooks looks like right now. He sat Westbrook at a point in the game where the Thunder were struggling offensively and needed a boost. In came Maynor in addition to sticking with reserves Harden and Nick Collison while starters Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka sat on the bench. Brooks stayed with all of them for the entire period and the move paid off.

Not only did Maynor do a great job of running the offense but Harden was a beast as well knocking huge shots and finishing with 23 points and Collison did what no other Thunder could do in game 1, stop Dirk Nowitzki.

Collision forced Dirk into a few turnovers and never gave him a clean look at the basket. His feistiness and aggressiveness led to good looks for the Thunder on the offensive end and eventually led to a ten point advantage and a 6 point win.

Eric Maynor did a great job in place of Westbrook last night.

But the main story is Westbrook.

There are two sides to this story: one is that this benching should finally prove to Westbrook where he is on the alpha dog totem pole in OKC.

His internal struggle with trying to be the man over Kevin Durant has made for some good TV and lots of talk for everyone watching. We all know that Durant is the real man in charge but the message needed to be relayed to Westbrook. This was that message.

While Brooks would say that he kept his bench players in for the whole quarter because of how well they played, he can’t just overlook the fact that at some point he had to humble Westbrook. Yesterday he did that in a backhanded sort of way.

Westbrook coming out in the third quarter wasn’t a benching; it was his normal rest time. He normally checks back in at the 7 or 8 minute mark to lead the offense down the stretch. However, with the team playing so well he decided to keep Maynor in the game and leave Westbrook there to sit and wait… and wait… and wait… until the clock struck zero and he was high-fiving teammates after the win. The Thunder won while Westbrook sat and learned. Two birds, one stone.

The other way to view this is that maybe Brooks was right in his words when he said that Westbrook sat only because the bench was playing so well and not due to his poor play in key stages in the playoffs.

Last night wasn’t a mark against Westbrook; rather it was a bonus for the depth of the Thunder. For so many reserves to play in such a key stretch and stand tall is something that could last well past this series and into the finals. Now Durant and Westbrook for that matter have about a good 6 or 7 complementary guys that can step up in any situation and do what’s asked of them. Miami, Chicago or Dallas do not have that same luxury.

Throughout this whole drama Westbrook hasn’t let it get to him. Of course he was frustrated on the bench when his name wasn’t called, I mean wouldn’t you be too after being named all-NBA second team? Instead of letting his ego get the best of him he cheered for his teammates, was the first guys to hand out dap during timeouts and didn’t let reporters get to him with questions after the game.

He said that he was “good” and didn’t care as long as they won the game. A great bit of humbleness from a player who to most was letting his ego get in the way.

Now the question is what happens to Westbrook now?

Will Brooks yank him again if he goes against the game plan? Will he sulk and get upset if his number isn’t called? Will he chick up more terrible looking shots like he has done throughout the playoffs? Or will he play the type of basketball that makes him a top 3 point guard in the NBA?

Just know that every move that Westbrook makes will be looked at even closer than ever before, and if he can’t handle it then we know Coach Brooks will have no problem going to Eric Maynor again. It’s worked once before, Westbrook saw it firsthand.

A Classic Night For Dirk Nowitzki

Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, a.k.a. The Dirk Show.

2: Dirk Nowitzki knocks down a jumper off of a Jason Kidd feed.

4: Nowitzki drives into the lane to draw a contact foul on Kendrick Perkins. He drains both free throws

6: after Russell Westbrook misses a jumper (one of many in a horrid night for the brash young point guard) Kidd pushes the ball and Dirk drives into the lane untouched for another deuce.

8: Dirk pulls up over Serge Ibaka for an easy deuce

10: after Kevin Durant drains a three, Dirk abuses Ibaka (it happened a lot last night) and buries a 17 footer.

Thus far 4-4 10 points 2-2 from the free throw line. He sits at the 6-minute mark of the first before re-entering at the 1:13 mark.

12: Peja Stojakavic finds a cutting Dirk who rolls it in.

14: Dirk lures Ibaka with one of his many pump fakes and draws a shooting foul. Hits both free throws.

16: Nowitzki shakes Ibaka a drains a 18 footer. (And yes he’s still perfect if you were wondering.

19: in the midst of a crippling 13-0 run late in the second quarter, Dirk drives the lane bounces off of Ibaka drawing the foul and one.

(Side note: 5 years ago when Dirk went off for 51 against Phoenix he turned Boris Diaw into a crash test dummy. I immediately thought of this while watch the 6-10 super athletic Ibaka just get mauled by the bigger, stronger and more cunning Nowitzki. What I really remember was how me and my buddies made the joke that Boris Diaw in French meant Dirk Nowitzki’s B****. Insert Ibaka’s name and Swahili for the same effect.)

OKC got tired of seeing this last night.

21: Dirk drains a 12-footer, sorry Ibaka was on the bench.

First half: 21 points, no shots missed. Three’s, two’s, one’s, nothing.

As the second half began Scott Brooks decides to give other guys a crack at guarding Dirk like Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden… what do you think happened?

23: Dirk draws a foul on… guess who? Hits both.

24: Dirk gets a freebie from an illegal defense.

26: Dirk draws two consecutive fouls on Kevin Durant, one was suspect, but the even better question is why is Durant covering Dirk in the first place?

28: Sefolosha falls for the head fake Dirk hits two.

29: another illegal defense, dirk connects.

31: Dirk in the low block, over Sefolosha, no chance.

33: Dirk in the low block, over Sefolosha, no chance.

(At this point it’s becoming clear that not a single living being is going to stop, contain, slow down or… anything Dirk. If you face him up he’ll drive by you or shoot over you. If he has his back to the basket then he’ll pound you down. The Thunder had no answer for Dirk at all.

Coincidentally neither did Dallas for Durant. Loss in Dirk’s classic performance was Durant who was carrying the Thunder while Westbrook couldn’t hit Cowboys Stadium and Perkins couldn’t stay on the floor. Watch Durant and Nowitzki go at it offensively was like watching a clinic. Both knew their spacing, both knew when to drive and when to shoot and neither could be stopped. If game one was any indication of how this series is going to go then it’s going to be a good one.)

34: Dirk hits a tech.

36: Sefolosha goes for the fake, again, Dirk hits both.

38: Sefolosha can’t handle Dirk’s size and is called for clutching and grabbing. Dirk hits both.

(At this rate Scott Brooks needed a hug.)

Dirk misses his first shot of the game, and Jesus wept.

After three: 38 points. Perfect from the line and half of the Thunder wondering how in the hell they are going to stop him.

40: James Harden falls for the head fake, Dirk hits both. At this point the Thunder should’ve just stopped jumping.

You wanna try stopping me? Bring It!

We interrupt this Dirk Nowitzki report to bring you breaking news… Jose Juan Barea is pretty much the nastiest player in this series not named Dirk Nowitzki.

When he entered the game the whole dynamic changed. It wasn’t just about trying to stop Dirk, now you had to worry about a 6 foot locomotive that moved in fifth for practically his entire time on the court.

I couldn’t tell you how many times that Barea drove past Thunder defenders for an easy layup. He killed Eric Maynor, entered the lane at will and killed Nate Robinson’s ankles on his last layup.  It’s like someone fills his tank with nitrous oxide and says let er’ rip before he enters the game.

No wonder Andrew Bynum tried to break his ribs.

After Durant and Ibaka bring the Thunder within 5, the ball just so happened to find its way into Dirk’s hands again.

42: Ibaka falls for the head fake. Dirk hits two. I’m really tired of writing that.

44: after Westbrook hits a layup, Dirk answers with a 16- footer over Ibaka.

46: after Durant nails a three, Dirk answers with an 18 footer over Ibaka. (Serge Ibaka in Swahili means what again?)

48: with the Thunder clinging to what hope they have left, Westbrook fouls Nowitzki and he hits both.

To summarize: 48 points, 12-15 from the field, 24-24 from the line breaking Paul Pierce’s playoff record of 21-21, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks, and possession of Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka’s soul.

Not a bad night wouldn’t you say?