The Oklahoma City Thunder finally got off to the fast start that head coach Scott Brooks had been calling for ever since the Heat outscored his Thunder 56-37 in the first quarter of Games 1 and 2. OKC exploded for 33 points in the first 12 minutes of Game 4, going up by as much as 17 en route to a 33-19 domination of the opening period.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, the NBA insisted the game go the traditional four quarters. Miami erased the early edge in a matter of minutes and dominated the second quarter. The Heat would outscore the Thunder in both the third and fourth quarters as well, winning 104-98.
For starters, the Miami was given an unexpected lift by reserve Norris Cole and overlooked starter Mario Chalmers. There was also another astounding and focused performance by LeBron James, who nearly had a triple double at halftime.
Of course, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins doesn't think the Heat had anything to do with his team's undoing. He blames Brooks.
"I just don’t understand why we start out the first quarter the way we did, with the lineup that we had, and all of a sudden we change and adjust to what they had going on. So they won the last three quarters, that’s what happened," he said after the game, via The Oklahoman.
As usual, Perkins started the game and recorded four points and three rebounds before being taken out at the 3:16 mark. He didn't go back in until the 3:40 mark of the second quarter when Oklahoma City's lead dwindled down to just three. Perkins started the second half but once James Harden replaced him with 6:31 left in the third, he never went back in.
Brooks is no stranger to being second-guessed when it comes his rotation choices. He faced heavy criticism for not changing to a smaller lineup after falling behind early in the first two games of the NBA FInals. At the time, he insisted that juggling his lineup never crossed his mind.
In Game 4, Brooks stayed small with Harden -- whose struggles certainly didn't help validate his playing time -- while Perkins watched. The resulting loss leaves the Thunder perilously close to elimination. Perkins played a series-low 18 minutes in the loss on Tuesday night. Of course, his series high of 34 minutes came in the Thunder's Game 3 loss.
UPDATE: Perkins backtracked his comments on Wednesday and attempted to clarify what he said.
"I was just trying to make it clear that, at the time, we had a good adjustment at what we were doing. But at the end of day, when you're in the flow of the game or the heat of battle a couple boxouts here, a couple loose balls there, we end up winning the game." he said, per USA Today. "So at the end of the day, it wasn't anything directed at Coach Brooks or nothing to that nature. I'll roll with Coach Brooks all day."