Early in the game Michael Beasley seemed to make a concerted effort to attack the basket catching the ball inside the three-point line verses 25 feet out like he has been doing so far this season. His aggressiveness payed off connecting on a few shots early, but then went into a tailspin missing six shots in a row in the first quarter.
He caught his rhythm scoring more off the ball and in transition with 12 points late in the second and early in the third as the team flowed. The difference?
"I can't tell you," stated Beasley about his rhythm in the game. "I was out there playing basketball, that is about it."
For this team to play well they need a combination of the attacking Beasley and the active, engaged Beasley moving off the ball. This is something that head coach Alvin Gentry has been preaching to the talented forward from day one, as well as the potential inconsistent frequency of his touches.
"We called a couple of plays for him," said Coach Gentry about the early game play calling. "But as I said to him some nights it will be like that and others the ball may not come to you that many times, but you have to stay engaged in the game. I thought he did a good of staying engaged in the game. He caught the ball and took it to the basket some and that is what we need from him."
The style Gentry coaches with is different than most. He does not have a set closing line-up or even a complex game plan throughout a game. In the second quarter he was going to sub in Goran Dragic, but liked how the team was playing and on a hunch decided to rest him the whole quarter. His star guard sat for 12+ minutes, healthy, and ready to go.
Smart call as the team played strong to finish the half and Dragic was then able to log nearly every minute of the second half closing out the victory. The same thing happened to Beasley in the fourth after his solid showing in the third he went out for a scheduled break and never came back in.
That didn't bother Beasley as he is starting to understand his coaches methods and strategies.
"If I have to sit in a trash can for us to win, then I am going to sit in a trash can. Not playing in the fourth quarter is fine with me as long as we win."
By understanding his coach I mean that Beasley is recognizing the mad scientist he is working with and to not question his ways. Coach Gentry has seen a lot of basketball in his day and understands the game better than Beasley, you , or I will ever.
"Coach Gentry is a smart complicated man," said Beasley after the game. "If you try to sit there and pick his brain then you are going to have a long day. Just go with the flow, don't try and figure that man he is a little smarter than the rest of us. That is why he is the head coach."
That complicated man has closed out winning games this season with different line-ups every time, not something you will see too frequently in this star driven league. The idea of the false hero has corrupted so many that every young basketball player feels they need to make the play at the end of the game.
With this team there are a few capable scorers, but not that one star in the true sense of the word. So Gentry has to be that "complicated man" in order to tweak things here and there to get the right unit on the floor at the right times, especially at closing time.
"Too early to call, said Beasley about the teams potential closing line-up. "We have a lot of guys that can finish. We have a lot of guys that can make the right play the majority of the time. However the game flows is going to determine which five are going to close the game."
Gentry is a complicated man that very few understand. His team is learning that on the fly and their ability to trust him and buy-in to this mentality is significant to them winning ball games. One thing is for certain, he has his finger on the pulse of this team more than he is given credit for, that is for sure.