Billy Donavan made a rotation change in Dallas last night in their 116-103 win in the American Airlines Center. Assuring at least one of his two super-players, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, to be on the floor at any given minute of the game, OKC was just too much for the Mavericks. Kevin Durant, liking to play the initial first twelve minutes (1st quarter), was taken out of the NBA game just six minutes in, leaving Westbrook on the floor until his substitution later in the quarter, when Donavan put Durant back into the fray. That flip-flop continued until both stars played the final minutes of the half. It was repeated in the 2nd half. Examining minutes, the two played less minutes together than what they had been averaging, dropping from 31 minutes to 25 for this night. With that, the other three starters and the significant bench players fedd off both Durant and Westbrook and for this one game, the production of certain players was up. The Thunder offense was effective scoring above their game average of 110.
Asked about the rotation change Kevin Durant responded:
“Man, whatever he wants me to do, I’m down. I felt good. I’ve been in this league long enough I can figure it out. Coach just came to me the other day and said he wanted to try it out, and I said it was cool. It doesn’t really affect me. At some point I’m going to get it going, at some point I’m going to make shots. Tonight it just started to come around. I’ve just got to stay patient. I can’t force anything because I’m coming out a little earlier, I’ve just got to play my game. What happens, happens. Just try to play winning basketball.”
The fact remained that the Thunder as an offensive have been highly effective with both top players on the court at one time. Yet the ineffectiveness of the bench necessitated a change for Donavan. The Thunder bench was just not getting it done and was being punished by the better teams with stronger benches.
Last night the bench and role players dominated Dallas where it hurt, outside shooting and post play, especially by Enes Kanter and starter Steven Adams. Kanter had 14 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes and Adams had 15 points, dominating the Mavs in the 3rd quarter with 13 of those points, and seven boards for the game. Dion Waiters broke out of his funk scoring all 14 of his points in the second half while hitting 4-of-6 3’s. New man Randy Foye, in this second game as a Thunder, nailed a pair of first half 3s. Serge Ibaka had 13 points to go with eight boards. The Thunder ran up 116 points on the home team as Durant and Westbrook both leading the visitors with 24 points each.
The change might not be permanent but Coach Billy seems to think anything that shores up the bench is a positive. The Coach praised Kevin Durant, letting it be known that the 6’10 meal ticket for the Thunder is “always wanting to do what is best for the team.” Donavan further commented, “I just told him (Durant), in particular the fourth quarter, I think we’ve got to have either you or Russell out there to start that fourth quarter. I went to it early and we had talked about it the last couple days and he wanted to try it, he was all for it.”
That beginning of last night’s fourth quarter started out with a 15-0 run, giving the Thunder an insurmountable lead of 21. .
This change might not be used for all games, but does give Coach Donavan and his players something to work around. Especially in the playoffs when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s minutes will increase. We shall see what happens tonight in New Orleans and Saturday on Reno Street in Oklahoma City against the Golden State Warriors. The Mavs were season swept for the 2nd time in the short history with OKC, with the Thunder winning all four games
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