MIAMI — The plus/minus stat in basketball is considered little more than a snapshot. Nonetheless, Thunder reserve forward Nick Collison has been the most photogenic player so far in the NBA Finals.
Plus/minus measures a team's point differential when certain players are in the game.
OKC is plus-21 against the Miami Heat in the 36 combined minutes Collison played in Games 1 and 2, a higher total than any player on either team.
Meanwhile, Thunder starters Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are both at minus-18.
With the best-of-7 series tied at 1 after the Thunder's 100-96 loss at home Thursday night, more playing time for Collison seems a reasonable request with the next three games at American Airlines Arena, starting with Game 3 on Sunday at 7 p.m.
Why not start Collison? Because it's not happening, that's why.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks is all about maintaining a consistent approach to business, so don't expect any radical changes.
Asked on Saturday if his mind was racing with an extra day to prepare for Game 3, Brooks defiantly said: “My mind is not racing that I'm going to throw everything out that we've worked on all year that we've got to this point with. I just want to do things better, and I think that's always been our battle cry. Every time we have a tough stretch of the season, just get back to what we do and let's just do it better, and I think that's what we're going to do into (Sunday) night's game.”
Those who incessantly crunch NBA data – Thunder general manager Sam Presti among them – stress the plus/minus becomes far more telling when it's evaluated over a few seasons rather than a few games.
After Collison comes Derek Fisher at plus-19 and James Harden at plus-15. That's three non-starters leading the way.
Then again, given OKC's horrendous starts in Games 1 and 2 (being outscored 56-37), it stands to reason why a starter's plus/minus would suffer.
Guard Thabo Sefolosha leads Thunder starters at plus-11, while Kevin Durant is at plus-6 and Russell Westbrook is plus-3.
For the Heat: Dwyane Wade plus-4; Mario Chalmers plus-3; Shane Battier minus-1; LeBron James minus-5; Chris Bosh minus-5; Udonis Haslem minus-20.
Perhaps even more interesting, the Perkins-Ibaka combination is minus-17 while playing together.
Perkins is minus-1 when he is OKC's only big in the lineup, as is Ibaka. Meanwhile, Collison is plus-21 as the solo big, outscoring the Heat 64-43.
Collison said the problem isn't with who's starting, but rather how they're playing.
“When we don't play well, we usually don't point to lineups, play-calling, things like that,” Collison said. “Usually it's because of our effort or our focus. We just watched film of the first quarter (in Game 2), and the mistakes we made had nothing to do with lineups or anything else. It was between our ears and how mentally focused we need to play better. Those are the things we worry about more.”
Collison was the star reserve of Game 1 with 10 rebounds (five offensive), eight points and one steal in 21:16 of playing time. In Game 2, however, Collison played just 14:32, had one rebounds and didn't take a shot.
“We've played well this year with the guys we've got and with the different rotations we've had, the different minutes we've had, so I'm ready to go when I get out there,” Collison said when asked if he was disappointed he played fewer minutes on Thursday night. “We have faith in all our guys. We have faith in 1 through 15 and especially in the guys in our rotation. Whenever we're struggling we're not looking at tweaks here, what can coach do, what magic plays can we run? We have to look at ourselves and how we can play better, and that's kind of where we're at.”
Like Brooks, Collison is a believer in continuity, which is why he doesn't expect any lineup changes in Game 3.
“I doubt it,” Collison said. “Maybe he will. If that's what he does, we'll go with it, but I'd imagine we're going to go and do what we do, we just have to play better.”