Sometimes, if you got something going for you, the worst thing you could do is change things up. Such was the case for the Oklahoma City Thunder last night when they started the fourth quarter with a line-up that featured only one starter, Kevin Durant. The mainly second teamers clicked together, turning a tight game into a solid Thunder lead and was working so well that OC coach Scott Brooks rode them the entire quarter.
"We had a good start to the fourth quarter," Durant said. "You can't mess that chemistry up. Coach made a good decision by doing that."
The Thunder's bench play was the key to their evening up the Western Conference Finals series at 1 game apiece. For the game, they outscored Dallas's reserves 50-29, and in the decisive fourth, they scored 23 of the Thunders 29 points.
"Our bench has played good all year for us," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought the 50 points that they gave us was the game. It was the game."
The standout for the Thunder reserves was back-up point guard James Hardin. With Russell Westbrook sitting on the bench, Harden took control of the team and put up 23 clutch points. More importantly, however, was his defense on Mavericks guard Jason Terry. He held the Mavs' sixth man to just eight points, his lowest total of the postseason.
"I thought the first game we gave him a lot of room," Brooks said. "And when you do that with Jason, he burns you every time. He's a terrific player. He's like their sixth starter for their team, but I thought James most of the time did a great job chasing him off the screens."
For the Mavericks, who with the loss also loses home court, the key to stopping the Thunder is on the defensive end. To be more specific, they need to play defense. They allowed the Thunder to shoot 56 percent, a percentage that isn't going to win you many games.
"The defensive end is what we've got to solve," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Scoring 100 points in a playoff game should be enough to win. Not if you're giving up 106, 112. Give them credit. They played an attacking, desperate game. Their bench was dominant when they played."
The Mavericks will get their chance to avenge this loss and retake control of this series when the two teams play again Saturday night.
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