The Oklahoma City Thunder have a decision to make, or at least they should. Their starting lineup has not gotten off to good starts in the first two games of the NBA Finals.
The Thunder fell behind 20-10 in the first quarter of Game 1 and 18-2 in the first quarter of Game 2.
Should the Thunder change their starting lineup? Absolutely. Will they? Nope.
“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,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “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.”
Kendrick Perkins is the problem with their starting lineup. He has basically done nothing for the Thunder so far in this series. It’s just not a good matchup for him.
Perkins does three things well on a basketball court: defend the post, set screens and be annoyingly physical. That’s it. He’s been unable make an impact doing those things so far against the Heat and instead has been exploited by the Miami starting five.
Many are calling for the Thunder to change their starting lineup to a smaller one to match the Heat. This would mean inserting James Harden for Perkins and sliding Kevin Durant down to the four.
Starting Harden would not be the answer either. It might help at the beginning of the game but bringing Harden off the bench is one of the Thunder’s greatest strengths.
Nick Collison would make a much better option starting for the Thunder. Collison has the best plus-minus of any Thunder player so far in this series while playing less than 20 minutes per game.
Collison is versatile enough too to match up with Shane Battier spotting up or defend Chris Bosh in the pick-and-roll. He and Serge Ibaka are also the Thunder’s two best offensive rebounders so they’d still be able to hopefully take advantage of that as well.
“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.”
Starting Collison is an extremely necessary move for the Thunder. If they don’t, and they probably won’t, they will continue to struggle at the start of games which isn’t ok at all.
It almost feels like it would be better for the Thunder to get out to another horrible start in Game 3 just so that Brooks has no choice but to change the starters for the rest of the series.
Championship chances don’t come around every year, even for a team as young as the Thunder you never know when you’ll be back. The time is now to adjust and if the Thunder don’t, they will be wasting a prime chance at a title.