Scott Brooks Deserves Some Credit for the Win Against Miami | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Scott Brooks Deserves Some Credit for the Win Against Miami

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Updated: March 7, 2018

When the Wizards were at their darkest hour, having gone on their first three-game losing streak of the season, Scott Brooks simply went to the drawing board and put together one of his better game plans during his D.C. tenure. Washington was held on and scored a pivotal 117-113 overtime victory over the Miami Heat in a win that had playoff-like intensity.

The impressive part wasn’t that they were able to stave off the Heat from surpassing them in the Eastern Conference standings, it was how Scott Brooks was able to out duel one of the better coaches in the NBA with his lineup decisions.

For one night at least, Brooks had Erik Spoelstra on his heels and was able to dictate the pace and style of play because of his executive decision to go with his smaller lineup that included Markieff Morris playing center next to Mike Scott at the four, Kelly Oubre at the three, and Sato and Beal in the back court. After the game, Brooks was asked how the team limited Whiteside and he let it be known that the way it played out was no coincidence:

“We wanted to make sure that he didn’t get a ton of offensive rebounds and he still ended up with four. Not a lot of minutes, but they have a lot of good players. They have a lot of good players and they have a lot of different kinds of bigs. Kelly [Olynyk] is a big-time shooter that didn’t shoot the ball well tonight. The young fella [Bam Adebayo] is aggressive and makes a lot of plays – he didn’t play a lot of minutes tonight. We wanted to make sure that we stayed between Whiteside and the basket. He’s had some terrific games against us and tonight we did a good job of keeping it under check.”

The decision to go with Keef at center for extended minutes was a forward thinking one by Brooks, since it is no secret that Hassan Whiteside has been dominant against the Wizards in years past averaging 21.7 points and a staggering 15.8 rebounds in his last six games against the Wizards. Washington decided the best course of action was to limit his impact on the game by forcing Spoelstra to take him off the court.

Whiteside only was able to log 21 minutes of game action and barely played at all in the second half because the Heat quickly observed that the Wizards could pull him away from the basket with Keef floating around near the three-point line. It is important to note that Brooks elected to go with the small lineup instead of just inserting Ian Mahinmi into the game. Mahnimi only played four minutes in this game as a result of Brooks’ strategy.

The newfound space on the court because of the Wizards “Death Lineup,” helped them shoot 14-24 from three-point range and  their defensive versatility allowed them to hold Miami to just 9-33 shooting from beyond the arc.One of more than fair criticisms of Brooks this season has been his inability to properly feel the game ebb ad flow of the game and modify his lineups accordingly.

Just a few days ago, Brooks showed how rigid his rotations can be when he kept Jodie Meeks in the game for far too long as they were erasing a double digit fourth quarter deficit against the Indiana Pacers. In this game, Brooks demonstrated why he was named Coach of the Month i February. After essentially benching Marcin Gortat in the second half in an effort to give the Heat a different look, Brooks went back to the Polish Machine in the overtime period, and Gortat rewarded his coach by playing well. Brooks was asked about Gortat’s play in the extra frame and was complimentary of the little details:

“One, we had to spread some of the minutes around and he’s probably the league leader in jump balls, he gets all of them – I don’t know the percentage off hand. He does do a great job there and he does set great screens for Brad [Beal] and our guys to get open looks. He made two big plays: he got the charge and he made two free throws.”

The most important sign of growth from Brooks in this win was his trust in point guard Tomas Satoransky. In the not so distant past, Scott Brooks has shown that while the empirical data suggests that Satoransky should be on the floor a lot more than what he actually is. According to ESPN’s Real Plus Minus stat that evaluates a player’s complete on-court performance, Satoransky rates as the 11th best at his designated postion of shooting guard in the NBA with an RPM of 1.65. For context that is higher than the Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown.  Despite that, Brooks has felt more comfortable with the ball in Beal’s hand towards the end of games.

Against the Heat, not only did Brooks play Tomas a career-high 40 minutes, but he even allowed him the opportunity to have the ball in his hands in some of the games most critical possessions. Satoransky was entrusted with running the last play at the end of regulation that resulted in a set-up pass to Bradley Beal. There will obviously be growing pains for any young player who is learning how to close out games, but the best way to learn is through personal experience. Satoransky gained invaluable end of game experience in the win that will surely assist him when he is getting his first meaningful playoff minutes this spring.

The one questionable lineup change Brooks made was his decision to break the “in case of emergency” glass on Ramon Sessions who just recently signed a second ten-day contract with the team. Sessions finished the game with a mind boggling plus/minus of minus-17 in just 13 minutes of play. Sessions entered the game at the 3:52 mark of the first quarter with the Wizards well in control of the game 28-12, but when Sessions left the game at the 10:39 mark of second quarter, the score was 31-28 Wizards.

The sample size is obviously small, but there were some positive things happening with Sessions on the court. He still has the knack for driving to the basket and drawing contact, as he went 4-4 from the free throw line. What Sessions gives the Wizards second unit is a player who is more than comfortable at being aggressive offensively. His style of play is a much different look from the offensively conservative Tim Frazier who becomes a liability at times because teams refuse to honor him as a viable offensive threat.

Scott Brooks showed glimpses of a coach who is willing to evaluate his own performance as a decision-maker and use that information to devise new ideas. While he didn’t sway any votes his way for coach of the year with his latest win, he did at least take a step in the right direction in demonstrating that he is willing to be flexible.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.