For the NBA playoffs to be great, the Western Conference finals have to be compelling. You know the East will be. The West was last night.
The let's-see-who-can-give-up-first fans who announced after game one in the East that Miami couldn't beat Chicago said the same about Oklahoma City beating Dallas. But Oklahoma City won on the road last night, and both series are tied 1-1.
Oklahoma City's victory was a testament to confidence and coaching. Scott Brooks of the Thunder had the courage to surround his best player, Kevin Durant, with four reserves throughout the fourth quarter. The subs were going to win the game or lose it, and they won 106-100.
Russell Westbrook, an amazing athlete and a second-team NBA all-star, watched the entire quarter from the bench. Westbrook shoots too much. He ignores Durant, a potent and often unstoppable scorer.
Westbrook lost the ball late in the third quarter to Jason Kidd and then fouled Kidd. Brooks said something to Westbrook and Westbrook said something back. Westbrook went to the bench fuming. Assistant coach and former point guard great Maurice Cheeks approached Westbrook, presumably to calm him down and wake him up.
Everybody waited for Westbrook to return. He didn't. Brooks went with Eric Maynor, and the result was stunning.
I love coaches -- and everybody else -- who has the courage to go against convention and trust their insticts.