HOUSTON — Nick Collison played just 6½ minutes in the Thunder's 107-100 loss to Houston in Game 5, and here's possibly the biggest reason why he should have been on the court and not on the bench:
Kevin Martin needed him.
Martin is playing only the second postseason in his nine-year NBA career, and not much has gone right. Since a sizzling start after joining the OKC roster on Oct. 27, Martin's season has gotten progressively worse.
Rock bottom came Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena, where Martin missed his first nine field-goal attempts and finished 1 for 10 from the floor and 0 for 5 from 3-point range, finishing with three measly points in 22:50 of playing time.
So far in the opening-round playoff series against the Rockets, Martin is averaging 11.4 points while shooting 30.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range.
During the regular season, he averaged 14.0 points while shooting shot 45.0 percent from the floor and 42.6 from 3-point range.
Martin's free-throw percentage also has dipped in the postseason from 89.0 percent (fourth in the league) to 82.4 percent.
Even more insulting, this has transpired against the team from which he was traded along with rookie guard Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft choices and one second-round pick in exchange for James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward.
An unrestricted free agent after this season, Martin's future with the Thunder appears to be on the brink of extinction. Martin is making roughly $12.5 million this season, but his free-agent offers this summer no doubt will plummet because of his poor shooting and even worse timing.
What does all this have to do with Collison?
One aspect of Martin's game that has shown steady progress with the Thunder has been the two-man game between him and Collison, whether it be on pick-and-rolls, backdoor cuts or ball screens.
Although Martin and Collison surrendered personal gain this season, together they have prospered.
Martin had been his team's leading scorer the previous six seasons with Sacramento and Houston, while Collison has been propping up teammates since he was drafted 10 years ago.
In Game 5, with Martin sinking to his lowest point, Collison was barely given a chance to lend a hand during their 6:32 together on the court from the 1:30 mark in the first quarter to 6:58 in the second, at which point Collison was taken out and never allowed to return.
If for no other reason, Collison warranted additional play for what he achieved, finishing with six points, 3 for 3 shooting from the field, two rebounds and two blocked shots.
With the loss of All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to a season-ending knee injury, the Thunder is trying to synchronize several moving parts during the playoffs, which is no easy task.
The Martin-Collison component, however, already was in sync.
After leading the series 3-0, OKC clings to a 3-2 lead entering Game 6 on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the Toyota Center in Houston.
How does K-Mart get going again?
“Calling his number,” said replacement starting point guard Reggie Jackson. “Personally, myself, I put him in some bad situations, just sitting in the corner. Kevin Martin is a guy who likes to move. He had it going. He likes to come down pin-downs, get moving, that's how he gets baskets. He's more than a spot-up shooter. Just everybody, let the offense score for us.”
Martin's own cure?
“Just stay with it,” Martin said Thursday. “Stay confident. Follow and trust what you've been doing all year.”
Hopefully, with Collison alongside.