Tahlequah Daily Press

April 25, 2013

Thunder wrap-up

Kolby Paxton's Thunder Insider column.

Staff Writer


1.) Harden vs. Ibaka – literally.

Kevin McHale had a bright idea at some point between Sunday and Wednesday: He decided to match James Harden, a 6-5 guard, up with Serge Ibaka, a 6-10 forward.

The idea, obviously, was to give Harden a break from chasing Russell Westbrook around for 48 minutes. A concept that meant Ibaka would, in turn, be free to collect a lion's share of offensive rebounds (in theory), but would also allow Harden to take advantage of Ibaka off the dribble on the other end.

Unless, of course, Brooks refused to take the bait. Is there a rule that I am unaware of? One that requires a coach to accept the opposing preference for defensive match-ups? There's not, right? And is it really so difficult to switch the matchup on the way back down the floor?

High school teams do it. College teams do it. While we're at it, here's a list of NBA coaches that would have rejected McHale's desperation move: Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, George Karl, Mark Jackson, Erik Spoelstra, Rick Adelman, Mike Woodson and Gregg Popovich. At minimum. You can probably toss in Lionel Hollins and Frank Vogel. Maybe even Rick Carlisle and P.J. Carlesimo.

In doing so, Brooks would have ruined the concept by giving the Thunder an advantage at both ends. Instead, he subscribed to Houston's hail mary, and Harden erupted for 35 points on (approximately) a kazillion lay-ins – single-handedly keeping the Rockets afloat.

2.) Is Brooks in over his head?

I realize that in-state media has apparently taken up some oath to remain supportive of everyone associated with Oklahoma City's professional basketball squad, but someone has to ask, right?

Is Brooks the eight best coach in the NBA? The 10th best? Could Maurice Cheeks do his job just as well? Could he do it better? These are legitimate questions.

Brooks inherited Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He has the best general manager in basketball. All he has to do is not screw it up. But I have serious questions regarding his ability to lead OKC to a championship.

He is routinely out-coached – last night, by a guy who isn't exactly thought of as the next Red Auerbach. He sticks with players like Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher, even when it makes absolutely zero sense (See: '12 NBA Finals), and he does nothing to rein in the oft-erratic Russell Westbrook – perhaps even stunting his growth as a point guard in the process.

He's a hell of a nice guy, which – I assume – is part of the reason local journalists leave him alone. But nice only goes so far before you're just soft. Brooks is soft. The Thunder fell apart in the fourth quarter because nothing Brooks ever says in a timeout matters. At all. I mean, ever. Listen to him. He sounds like my mother trying to fire people up. He might as well just say, "Listen guys, I have no idea how to stop the bleeding. Please, for the love of God, Kevin, will you just bail me out again?"

A 21-2 run, Scott. 21 to 2. Carlos Delfino and Chandler Parsons just dropping bombs on your head.

3.) A special shout out to Serge Ibaka.

Hey, Serge. You're 6-foot-10, 270-something pounds. You have the wingspan of a 747. You like to come from the weak side and block shots and you have a really nice stroke from about 18 feet.

That's cool.

You know what's not cool? The fact that Presti chose you over Harden is not cool. Not cool at all. "Why isn't that cool," you ask? It's not cool because you have what has become more than just a bad habit of completely disappearing for vast stretches of time.

Where are you?

You spent 30-plus minutes being covered by a shooting guard five inches shorter than you, and you amassed 12 points (on a whopping six shot attempts) and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, Harden and Erik freaking Beverly combined to haul in 23 misses. Erik Beverly.

But, hey, thanks for finally confirming that you still have a pulse at the the 31-second mark of the fourth quarter.

And 1.) Thunder grab a 2-0 series lead.

You wouldn't know it from the previous 600 words, but Oklahoma City eventually held off Houston to take control of the series. Unfortunately for the Thunder, an effort like the one it turned in last night will get them booted from the conference semi-finals rather emphatically.

It was over when... Kevin Durant did Kevin Durant things with the game in the balance. First, he answered a James Harden lay-up with a deep three, and on the following possession (with a little help from Kendrick Perkins) KD found a wide open Thabo Sefalosha who, in turn, buried a triple of his own to push the OKC advantage back to four with a minute remaining.

Quote of the night: "It's obvious what Perkins did. He grabbed with two hands and I couldn't go out there and contest Sefalosha. It's part of the game." – Chandler Parsons