MIAMI – Kendrick Perkins wasn’t too happy after the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 104-98 loss in Game 4 of The Finals on Tuesday. And Perk was quick to blame a lineup change for the Thunder’s inability to hold onto a 17-point, first-quarter lead.
“I just don’t understand why we start out the first quarter the way we did,” Perkins said, “with the lineup that we had, and all of a sudden we change and adjust to what they had going on.”
Through the first three games of the series, the Thunder starting lineup had been outscored 46-18 in the first quarter (20-12 in Game 1, 16-2 in Game 2, and 10-4 in Game 3).
But in Game 4, the Thunder actually started out strong, outscoring the Heat 15-8 in the first quarter before Scott Brooks went to his bench. Nick Collison came in for Serge Ibaka and then James Harden subbed for Thabo Sefolosha. The Thunder stayed big (with Collison and Perkins together on the floor) and continued to build their lead.
They were up 23-12 when Brooks decided to go small, subbing Derek Fisher in for Perkins. And that seemed to be what Perkins was upset about.
The OKC small lineups were a plus-3 in the final 3:17 of that first quarter, but Brooks played small the entire second quarter, which the Heat won 27-16.
In total, the Thunder played big for just 14 minutes on Tuesday. They were a plus-4 in those 14 minutes, but that includes the hot start. In the third quarter, the Thunder starters were outscored 18-11 in five minutes. And they never played big after that.
“I don’t think the game comes down to who plays and who doesn’t play,” Brooks said Wednesday. “It’s how we play.”
Would his team have blown that big lead if Brooks kept two big men on the floor for most of the game? Probably. For the series, the Thunder have been better, especially offensively, playing small…
Thunder lineup efficiency, 2012 Finals
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Maybe Brooks showed Perkins the lineup data Wednesday morning, because by the afternoon, the big man had changed his tune.
“We’re going to roll with whatever Coach does,” Perkins said. “If he wants to go with a big lineup, we’re going to support that. If he wants to go with a small lineup with one big, we’re going to support that. At the end of the day, it’s about sacrificing and getting a win. We’re all on the same page, and we’re pulling for each other, and we’ve all just got one goal, to sacrifice and come and play.”