Collison offers hope for Ibaka-less OKC

By Jeff Caplan,

VIDEO: What must OKC change in Game 2?

SAN ANTONIO — Nick Collison is a naturally unassuming kind of guy. He grabs his lunch pail, goes off to work every day and earns his dollar.

Work conditions, however, have dramatically changed, and Collison is now at the center of a dilemma that threatens to unravel the Oklahoma City Thunder’s title hopes. Somehow he and his teammates must find a way to make life much more uncomfortable for the San Antonio Spurs’ offense without high-riser Serge Ibaka patrolling the paint.

Collison, the 6-foot-9, 33-year-old backup who had only averaged 11.6 mpg during the first two rounds of the playoffs and logged single-digit minutes in seven of the eight previous games heading into Monday’s opener of the Western Conference finals, is suddenly thrust into Ibaka’s starting job.

As everybody knows by now, the Spurs clobbered OKC with an alarming 66 points in the paint. Tim Duncan maneuvered unmolested inside for easy buckets that led to 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting in the first half — 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the first quarter.

“We want to make it hard for them to make all their cuts and their passes,” said Collison, who received a half-dozen stitches in his lip after Game 1 and visited a dentist Tuesday morning to examine a tooth he thought might have been jarred from its root, but was not.

“They’re really good when they’re running through their offense and the ball is flying around and guys are wide open,” Collison continued. “We want to be able to throw their timing off a little bit, and some of that is physicality, but a lot of it is getting back and start playing at the beginning of a possession instead of being back on our heels and letting them run where they want to run.”

Collison only played 16 minutes in Game 1 and was scoreless with three rebounds, but there’s a belief that his more engaged, defensive effort during the Thunder’s impressive eight-minute stretch of the third quarter when they defended the paint as a team with more authority and twice seized a one-point lead, can carry over to Game 2.

“Our effort, intensity on the defensive end was really good,” Kevin Durant said. “We scrambled out, we made efforts, we rebounded the basketball, we attacked,” Durant said.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks experimented with multiple small-ball lineups in Game 1, but was burned badly defensively. One option in Game 2 is stay bigger and ride Collison as long as possible alongside starting center Kendrick Perkins and backup center Steven Adams.

“It’s hard for a coach to know what to do, especially with one of our starters being out, not knowing who to throw into the game, what lineups to use,” Durant said. “So you got to take that into account. He’s a great coach and he does learn from game to game, and knowing who to put out there. We can play with any type of lineup. It all comes down to effort and energy and just having that mindset that we’re locked in every single possession.”

Expectation is that Collison will not only be back in the starting lineup, but that he’ll have a bigger piece of Game 2, with the first eight minutes of the third quarter being the blueprint.

“We’re capable of doing it, but have to be able do it longer,” Collison said. “What we saw in that third quarter, that needs to be how we play, that needs to be our new normal.”


  1. new coach says:

    This is on our coach. Scott Brooks is just not good enough to coach a Durant/Westbrook combo. I’ve tried to support him over the years but It’s time to realize we need a new coach. Imagine Pop coaching OKC. We would win multiple titles and who knows what KD would do under POP. And westbrook? Sky would be the limit if he had a coach that knew how to draw up an offense. OKC owners get us a vet coach asap or we are gonna loose our stars to bigger city teams. Its crazy….we have 2 of the best players this league as seen in years and we have a legit title chance year after year but we always come up short. Ibaka being out is not a deal breaker. Good coaches know how to handle this kind of thing. NEW COACH

  2. Mike Siegel says:

    Oh YES on Perry Jones. The need is for a BIG who can Run,Rebound,BLOCK shots & SHOOT.
    I would START him tonight

  3. Bryan says:

    “Our effort, intensity on the defensive end was really good,” Kevin Durant said.

    Oh, really? I remember them scoring 122 points on your really good defense.

    • 36yrfan says:

      I guess he meant ‘really good’ defense for Thunder standards……meaning average for Good defensive teams . So if you want flash and high points and a scoring champ/mvp….other areas are gonna suffer… DEFENSE !!!

  4. Manu says:

    OKC can make all the adjustments but they will fall short. They can plug in players and experiment, but the Spurs will outplay them. Play small and our bigs will dominate. Play bigger guys and our speed will prevail. You can use their third quarter burst to produce a glimpse of hope, but we will use the other 3 quarters as basis for total control in the next game. The Spurs will not be stopped. Durant and Westbrook do not have the supporting cast to succeed. My Spurs are complete and fully armed. Go Spurs Go !!

  5. amitpal says:

    Anybody else think that perry jones should start at power forward, because he’s a better offensive player and the thunder just need to play harder on defense?

  6. okcDoke2014 says:

    Spurs are a machine and probably go up 2-0. Good D and nice up tempo run, run and run. I was surprised but they have been here many times……….

  7. Abdul says:

    They need to start Adams. He is a much better defender. Collison is more of a glue guy, he doesn’t make his presence felt. I still feel like the Thunder can win at least 3 games.

  8. okc2014 says:

    Yesterday’s game wasn’t good. But that’s history and we have game 2. Go Thunder!