Has Brooks Finally Learned His Lesson On Beating Miami?
MIAMI, Florida - Maybe Scotty Brooks has finally learned his lesson.
After seeing his Oklahoma City team get whipped out of the gate against the Miami Heat in seven of the past eight meetings, maybe he's finally learned what pretty much everyone has known for several years.
Maybe his eyes have finally been opened and he sees that Kendrick Perkins is a major hindrance for the Thunder against the Heat.
Wednesday, Perkins' inability to stay with Chris Bosh on the defensive end resulted in 11 points in the first six minutes for Bosh and a 22-4 Heat lead. We already know Perkins offers nothing on the offensive end, and he met those expectations admirably.
Perkins left with 7:24 remaining in the first quarter and never returned. Meanwhile, the Thunder closed the first half on a 51-28 run to take a 55-50 lead into the locker room. Amazing what happens when you allow your team to actually play 5-on-5. Then, to everyone's surprise, Brooks actually started Perry Jones to start the second half. To no one's surprise, the Thunder's torrid stretch continued, all the way to a 112-95 win.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Thunder in Miami, and a six-game losing streak against the Heat overall. You don't win championships in January, but this win was big for the Thunder's psyche moving forward against the Heat, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Miami's small-ball lineup has been the bane of the Thunder's existence for the past three years. Actually, it's been Brooks' stubborn refusal to conform to the Heat's ways and match up correctly. It's the reason Miami had won six straight against the Thunder and it's the reason Miami hoisted a trophy in 2012 and the Thunder didn't.
With Perkins starting games for OKC, the Thunder have faced double-digit deficits in five of the past seven games in which Miami won the first quarter. Those kinds of deficits don't mean a lot in the grand scope of the game, but why make your team work harder than it already has to against one of the best teams in the league, especially when one simple substitution can completely nullify any advantage.
Without Perkins on the floor, OKC has more than enough athletes to go toe-to-toe with Miami on both ends of the floor. Miami has some older fellows as well, so players like Derek Fisher can continue to show out in the right lineups. Fisher torched the Heat for 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting from 3-point range, including two ridiculous banked in shots.
The best part about having so many athletes like Jones, Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson is that OKC doesn't need them all to score 20 points to beat Miami. They may not have to all score 10. But they do have to contribute, just like they did Wednesday night. The lack of bench contribution has been nearly as big a problem as Perkins the past three years against Miami.
When Russell Westbrook comes back, the Thunder will be even more equipped to beat the Heat. Just think about that for a second. Oklahoma City ran the Heat off their home court without one of the 10 best players in the NBA.
Oklahoma City won't shoot the ball every time out like they did on Wednesday. Asking Fisher to go 5-for-5 from 3-point range or expecting the team to go 16-for-27 from deep is a bit too much to ask.
However, Wednesday night, Oklahoma City rid itself of a big gorilla by actually beating the Heat for the first time since Game One of the 2012 Finals. In the process, they showed they can beat the Heat at their own game. That is, if Scott Brooks has truly learned his lesson.