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Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook want Scott Brooks to keep quiet about turnovers

To this point in the 2011-2012 NBA playoffs, the Thunder have done little wrong. It took them only nine games to reach the Western Conference finals, so Oklahoma City is likely feeling well-rested as they prepare to take on the Spurs. You don’t have that type of success without protecting the basketball, which is exactly what the Thunder have done. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook believe that is due in part to the fact that Thunder coach Scott Brooks has stopped talking about turnovers.

“One thing Scotty needs to do is just shut up,” Durant said jokingly according to The Oklahoman. “We’ll probably be a better team.”

Westbrook agreed that the Thunder were awful at taking care of the ball during the regular season when Brooks harped on it, but now it becomes a chicken vs. egg argument. Has Brooks quieted down about turnovers because his team has cut down on turning it over, or have the Thunder stopped turning it over as much because their coach quit talking about it?

“Usually, I don’t agree with either of those guys much, but they’re telling the truth,” Brooks said. “I haven’t mentioned the turnovers at all. But I haven’t mentioned it because we haven’t turned it over. Trust me, if we’re turning it over 25 times I’m on ‘em and showing every clip and why we’re turning it over because of bad spacing and so forth.”

Oklahoma city is averaging only 10.7 turnovers per game in the playoffs, which is the lowest total of any team. They had the most in the Western Conference with 16.3 during the regular season. Whether they finally got Brooks’ message, or the coach has simply relaxed and let them do their thing, something is working. If they play the way they did through the first two rounds, Oklahoma City has a shot at stopping the smoking hot Spurs.

Photo credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Rick Carlisle thinks Dirk Nowitzki is getting fouled, Scott Brooks disagrees

As you may have heard, the Thunder defeated the Mavericks with a Game 1 buzzer-beater from Kevin Durant on Saturday night. Had the game been officiated the way Rick Carlisle saw it, it may not have even come down to the wire. After the loss, Carlisle criticized the officials by saying Dirk Nowitzki was “grabbed and held and they (called) a foul on him.” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks took that as Carlisle trying to influence the refs for the remainder of the series.

“Look, if there’s been a memo issued saying that if you elbow a guy in the throat it’s legal, I would appreciate that memo being passed along,” Carlisle said when informed of Brooks’ comments. “I sincerely mean this: If one of our guys elbows Durant or Westbrook or Reggie Jackson or Cole Adridge in the neck, that’s a foul. It just happened to be a play that was missed.

“When I was asked about that, I was asked my opinion and I made two statements of fact. It was not about posturing or positioning. They were two statements of fact. You’re talking about a guy that’s been very difficult to officiate because of his unusual skill set and he gets played very physically and we’ve seen it for four years. That’s a fact. That’s not an attempt to lobby the league .That’s a fact of life that we’ve had to deal with and Dirk does a great job with it.”

Nice try, Rick. Whether Carlisle has a legitimate gripe or not, coaches are always trying to rally the officials when they make comments like the ones he made after Game 1. What other reason would there be to complain? If the Thunder play like they’ve played all season, the Mavs will need all the help they can get from the refs this series.

Russell Westbrook Reportedly Feels Coach Scott Brooks Blames Him for Losses

Russell Westbrook already seems to have some friction with Kevin Durant. Might his biggest problem be with Thunder coach Scott Brooks?

In a post explaining why Russell Westbrook won’t work in Oklahoma City, J.A. Adande slipped in the following nugget:

“[Westbrook's] told friends he feels Thunder coach Scott Brooks blames him for losses, while the credit for victories goes to Durant.”

It doesn’t matter whether or not Brooks is doing that, what matters is how Russell feels. His contract with the Thunder expires after next season. If he feels like he doesn’t get enough credit — or worse — that he gets blamed for the team’s failures, then it won’t be a surprise if he wants to leave.

Westbrook is talented and comes across as a guy who wants to be the leader of a team, not someone who defers to a teammate in the final minutes of a game. We’ll see if that turns out to be the case.

Chest bump to Aaron Bruski for sharing the note.

Scott Brooks Made Right Decision to Leave in Bench Players During Fourth Quarter

Though Oklahoma City won Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in Dallas Thursday night, you would have figured they’d been blown out based on the scrutiny they faced afterwards. Thunder coach Scott Brooks decided to keep four of his five starters on the bench for the bulk of the fourth quarter, leaving Kevin Durant as the only regular on the floor. Though Dirk Nowitzki went to work on Nick Collison (who was later subbed out for Serge Ibaka) in the fourth quarter, the plan worked well — the Thunder outscored the Mavs by five and won the game 106-100.

James Harden was on the money with 23 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and four assists, and Collison and Daequan Cook combined to go 5-for-5. The real story was that Eric Maynor scored 13 points in 20 minutes while subbing for Russell Westbrook, which created a controversy after the game.

Westbrook has been heavily criticized throughout the playoffs for his questionable shot selection and because of his inability to help Kevin Durant get the ball at times. Though I feel like the Thunder is much better team with Westbrook than without him (see the Game 7 closeout triple double against Memphis), his attitude and performance has been questionable. There are times when Russell should use his quickness and ability to get to the basket to try and score, and other times when he should try to set up his teammates. Sometimes he doesn’t try to run offensive sets and that is a problem. At the same time, there are few point guards who are as quick and effective in transition, so it’s a tricky situation to monitor.

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Three Adjustments Thunder Need to Make to Beat Mavericks in Game 2

Led by an all-time great playoff performance from Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks slaughtered the Thunder 121-112 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Tuesday.

Dirk dropped 48 points on 12-of-15 shooting and broke an NBA playoff record for made free throws in a game without a miss by going 22-of-22 from the line.

Kevin Durant tried his best to retaliate, scoring 40 points, but his teammates weren’t up to the task. The Thunder’s performance wasn’t as respectable as the single-digit final deficit suggests; they were outplayed in every aspect of the game.

Any time your opponent shoots 53% from the field and outscores your bench 53-22, you’re in major trouble.

So what does OKC have to do to bounce back and even the series 1-1?

Here are three key adjustments the Thunder can make to win Game 2:

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