However, it was a subtle tweak to the starting five by Scott Brooks that had arguably as big of an impact on the game.
In the first two games of the series, Thabo Sefolosha didn't producing for Oklahoma City against San Antonio (zero points in 26 minutes total) while super-sub Reggie Jackson wreaked havoc on the Spurs defense.
Enter Jackson, exit Sefolosha.
The results were startling.
Jackson had a plus/minus of +17 while scoring 15 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists. Combined with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, he provided a three-pronged attack on offense that San Antonio couldn’t find an answer for.
Sefolosha, meanwhile, failed to get off the bench.
Granted, a lot of the attention should be given to Ibaka who played through pain while producing on the court, but Brooks has often been maligned by the media for not being a savvy coach and making key adjustments during games or during a series. That wasn’t the case in Game 3.
His critics are quick to dismiss him because he hasn’t won an NBA championship and he stuck with Kendrick Perkins and Sefolosha in his starting five despite fans and members of the media begging for him to switch things up when James Harden was still with the team.
Despite the amount of success Brooks has enjoyed coaching Oklahoma City, leading them to the NBA Finals and being named Coach of the Year, people claim his success is only because he has had the benefit of coaching teams that have had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka.
Ibaka played great last night, but Brooks deserves credit for making a change in the starting five by adding Jackson.
Last night should be the start of Brooks getting the credit and respect he deserves as one of the NBA’s best coaches.