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At plus-309, Nick Collison led the Thunder in raw plus-minus in the regular season.
At plus-309, Nick Collison led the Thunder in raw plus-minus in the regular season.
Ronald Martinez/NBAE/Getty Images

Collison the key to Thunder's bench success

By John Schuhmann,
Posted May 21 2011 2:09PM

The story out of the Thunder's 106-100 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday was the playing time of their point guards, whether you want to focus on Russell Westbrook being benched for the fourth quarter or Eric Maynor earning extra playing time with a great performance.

But the idea of Maynor, a second-year back-up who was acquired last season for the draft rights to a guy who is an assistant coach in the German League, being more effective than Westbrook, an All-Star who was taken fourth in the draft, is nothing new. All season long, the Thunder have had more success with Maynor on the court than they have with Westbrook on the floor, both offensively and defensively.

Thunder efficiency with player on floor, regular season

Player MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Eric Maynor 1199 109.0 100.6 +8.4
Russell Westbrook 2848 108.2 105.2 +3.0
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Thunder efficiency with player on floor, playoffs

Player MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Eric Maynor 182 110.1 101.7 +8.4
Russell Westbrook 510 107.9 103.4 +4.5

Maynor, of course, has played far fewer minutes than Westbrook. And he's played a lot of his minutes against the second units of the Thunder's opponents. Most of all, he's benefitted from playing two thirds of his minutes with Mr. Plus-Minus, Nick Collison.

StatsCube: Oklahoma City's playoff numbers with Nick Collison on and off the floor

At plus-309, Collison led the Thunder (and ranked 22nd in the league) in raw plus-minus in the regular season. At plus-87, he leads them again (and ranks sixth in the league) in the playoffs, where they've been much better on both ends of the floor with Collison in the lineup.

Thunder efficiency, playoffs

Collison On/Off MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Collison On 320 116.0 98.1 +17.9
Collison Off 372 102.3 107.3 -5.0

And though the Thunder have been better with Westbrook off the floor than with him on, they've actually been pretty good with Westbrook and Collison on the floor together. In fact, Westbrook and Collison have been the third-best two-man combination in the playoffs, among those who have played at least 100 minutes together.

Top playoff efficiency differential, two-man combinations

Combination GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
DAL - Haywood & Nowitzki 12 161 132.9 107.9 +25.0
BOS - Allen & O'Neal 9 188 110.3 87.4 +23.0
OKC - Collison & Westbrook 14 180 120.3 98.6 +21.7
DAL - Nowitzki & Terry 12 292 128.0 106.3 +21.7
DAL - Barea & Haywood 12 152 125.1 103.5 +21.6
Minimum 100 minutes

StatsCube: Russell Westbrook's playoff numbers with Nick Collison on and off the floor

Contrast Collison to the numbers of Kendrick Perkins, who is a minus-33 in the playoffs. The Thunder are scoring 103 points and allowing 107 points per 100 possessions with Perkins on the floor.

As a whole, Oklahoma City's starting lineup has been pretty terrible, getting oustcored in five of their last six games. But overall, the Thunder starters haven't been as terrible as their counterparts in Dallas.

Starting lineups, remaining teams

Lineup GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
MIA - Bibby, Wade, James, Bosh, Anthony 11 93 103.5 85.9 +17.5
CHI - Rose, Bogans, Deng, Boozer, Noah 13 203 105.8 99.5 +6.3
OKC - Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Ibaka, Perkins 14 189 91.2 97.3 -6.1
DAL - Kidd, Stevenson, Marion, Nowitzki, Chandler 12 129 92.1 101.3 -9.2

Thus far though, the Dallas starters have won the matchup in the conference finals, outscoring the Thunder starters 10-3 in Game 1, when OKC foul trouble kept their starting lineup's minutes limited, and 29-19 in Game 2.

Holding Dirk under wraps (sort of)

Collison's best work has been in defending Dirk Nowitkzi. The Mavs' star is actually shooting a better percentage from the field with Collison on the floor (11-for-14) than with Collison on the bench (11-for-18). But his ability to get to the free throw line has been compromised.

StatsCube: Dirk Nowitzki's playoff numbers with Nick Collison on and off the floor

In 48 minutes with Collison on the bench, Nowitzki has attempted 29 free throws. In 33 minutes with Collison on the floor, he's attempted just five (about seven per 48).

An offensive series

There couldn't be a bigger contrast between the two series going on right now. In the Eastern Conference finals, the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat have combined to average 173 points per game. In the Western Conference finals, the Mavs and Thunder have combined to average 220.

The difference is a little about pace, and a lot about efficiency. Based on a formula estimate, the Bulls and Heat have combined to score just 101 points per 100 possessions, while the Mavs and Thunder have combined to score 121. As a frame of reference, the best offense in the league scored 109 points per 100 possessions in the regular season and the worst offense scored 99.

The Mavs and Thunder each had top-eight defenses after the All-Star break and were the second and third best defenses in the conference semifinals respectively, but neither has been to hold the other down in the first two games.

Success near the rim

Both of these teams have more than one big man known for their defense. The Mavs have a very defensive platoon at center with Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood, while the Thunder have three bigs - Collison, Perkins and Serge Ibaka -- who are considered above-average defenders.

StatsCube: Playoff shooting numbers, Dallas vs. Oklahoma City

But somehow, both teams are shooting incredibly well near the basket. Dallas is shooting 31-for-47 (66 percent) from inside five feet, while Oklahoma City is shooting 31-for-43 (72 percent). For comparison, the league as a whole is shooting 57 percent from inside five feet in the playoffs.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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