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NBA Finals: Nick Collison comes through in the clutch

Collison, as we've known for a long time out here in Big 12 Country, was born ready. Oklahoma City's 105-94 victory in the NBA Finals opener Tuesday proved that again.
by Mike Sherman Published: June 13, 2012

Scott Brooks is a nice guy. You don't need those in-game, miked-up segments to know that.

A couple games ago, I was expecting him to promise KD, Russ and Co. he'd take everyone out for a snow cone if they kept playing hard.

But this is the NBA Finals, and the Thunder's encouraging, affirming coach is still a coach trying to win a championship. So he's shortened his bench.

That's basketball talk for “I'm going with stars and starters.” The all-skate portion of the program is over. Seven Miami player saw the floor Tuesday night. OKC played eight.

And in the last series, the Western Conference Finals against San Antonio, one of Oklahoma City's favorite players got the short end of the bench. Nick Collison played less than 10 minutes in three games against the Spurs. Twice he went scoreless. The Thunder won two of those three games.

But if anyone thought the Thunder's Mr. Intangibles was about to become Mr. Irrelevant, Brooks tossed out some clues to the contrary about two hours before tip.

“Nick hasn't played much the last few games, but those guys are a big part of our team,” Brooks said of his reserves. “It takes all of our guys to be successful. They just have to be ready.”

Nick Collison, as we've known for a long time out here in Big 12 Country, was born ready. Oklahoma City's 105-94 victory in the NBA Finals opener Tuesday proved that, again.

The conditions couldn't have been more perfect. A mild case of Big Stage fright got Oklahoma City off to a low-energy start. Miami went with a small lineup, featuring 6-foot-8 forward Udonis Haslem at center and the 6-8 Shane Battier at power forward.

Strategically, it worked like a charm for the Heat. On Miami's offensive end it left Serge Ibaka guarding Battier, who drew the NBA's best shot blocker farther away from the basket with each of his three first-quarter 3-pointers. On the defensive end, it allowed Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to put LeBron James on Kendrick Perkins, freeing LeBron to play rover.

By halftime LeBron had four steals, Oklahoma City had four turnovers and the Thunder had a matchup problem.

So Brooks went smaller, went with the 6-10 Collison at center, and stayed with him for the most part.

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by Mike Sherman
Sports Editor
Mike Sherman is sports editor of The Oklahoman, where he has a combined 18 years of service during two stints as a writer and an editor. He covered high school sports for The Oklahoman from 1984-93. He also worked as a news writer for the...
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