NBA Finals Schedule 2012: Role Players Who Must Step Up to Bring Thunder Home

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IJune 19, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 17:  (L-R) Derek Fisher #37 Thabo Sefolosha #2 and Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder celebrate a play in the secon dhalf against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 17, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Oklahoma City Thunder need to get more out of their little five. 

Sure, the big three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden could produce a little more—well, Harden, who has put up two stinkers in the finals, could—but it's the role players who need to step up.

This isn't because Miami's role players have been out-playing Oklahoma City's per se. It's because Miami's big three are out-playing the Thunder's. When James Harden scores in single digits, there is no one to pick up the slack in scoring for OKC.

Durant and Westbrook can continue to combine for 50 or 60, but if Harden doesn't have a great game, the Thunder need a true team effort.

Take Game 1, for example. Harden never got in a groove and scored just five points. But the Thunder got eight points and 10 rebounds from Nick Collison, nine points from Thabo Sefolosha and 10 from Serge Ibaka in the win. 

The 27 points from the non-big three were the most in this series, and it resulted in Oklahoma City's only win. 

So, now that we know the role players are important, let's take a look at who needs to step up. 

Note: For a complete look at the remaining finals schedule, check out ESPN


Serge Ibaka

Ibaka's defensive presence is always incredibly important, but on the offensive end, he's been atrocious in the Finals. 

Versus his total playoff numbers, Ibaka's field goal percentage is down from 54 to 45. His free-throw attempts are up, but his percentage is down from 72 to 57. His points are down from 10.1 to 7.3. His offensive rebounding is down. And both his effective and true shooting percentages are down. 

Most important among all of that is the deterioration of his mid-range game.

Remember the game against San Antonio when Ibaka couldn't miss? Well, lots of those shots were of the mid-range variety. But this series? He's just 2-of-10 from that distance.

While the blocks he piles up are nice, Ibaka needs to get closer to the 10 points on 50 percent shooting he put up in Game 1. 


Nick Collison

Even with Game 3's poor performance in mind, I'm a part of Team Collison. Meaning, I believe he should be starting over Kendrick Perkins. 

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 17:  Nick Collison #4 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks in against Udonis Haslem #40 of the Miami Heat in Game Three of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 17, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
Pool/Getty Images

Collison does everything on the court you could ever ask of a fourth or fifth option. He sets good, hard screens, he crashes the glass, he always knows where to be on the court, and he plays hard-nosed defense. 

Against the Heat, almost all of Collison's playoff numbers are up. Most notably, he's dominating the boards. Collison has pulled down five boards per game while grabbing an extremely impressive 20.8 percent of available rebounds. 

What's more, the big man is averaging a plus-3.3 per game, even counting Game 3's minus-11. 

Scott Brooks needs to find a way to get him more minutes. 


Thabo Sefolosha

Sefolosha's defense this series has been outstanding, and he'll have to keep that up. But on offense, Sefolosha needs to reel it in a little bit.

The Losh (I just made that up) is averaging more shots per game in this series (6.0), but just shooting 33 percent from the field and 14 percent from long range. 

He needs to continue to be an impact player on the defensive end and leave the offense to the other role players. Also, he needs to convert a dunk every once in a while.