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Veteran Collison a perfect fit for young Thunder

Lost in the flashiness of the Oklahoma City Thunder's offensive fireworks is soft-spoken forward Nick Collison, a steady hand on a young team playing for the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship.

The Thunder's series-opening 105-94 victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday in the NBA Finals was vintage Collison: eight points, 10 rebounds and one steal in 21 minutes.

On a night that Kevin Durant scores 36 and backcourt mate Russell Westbrook adds 27, hardly a word was spoken about Collison's vital contribution off the bench.

"I'm trying to be ready," Collison said. "In these playoffs I'm telling myself I have the ability to play as hard as I possibly can and trying to focus on just that. Keep it simple.

"I've found in my career worry too much about results -- Am I going to make shots, am I not? -- I don't play as well.

"So I'm trying to just play in the moment and find different spots where I can help us."

Many of the things Collison does will not show up in the newspaper, like when he punched a ball out to the top of the circle when he realized he could not grab the rebound himself.

The Thunder retained possession and ultimately scored a three-pointer, helping fuel the fourth-quarter rally that won Tuesday night's pivotal Game One.

"With experience and playing long enough and being secure in yourself, you're more concerned that the Thunder score," he said. "That's the way I am right now.

"Anytime we get going and make a run, for me personally, that's the best part about playing. A lot of times if I can't grab a rebound with two hands, I'll try to tip it back out.

"Anything, something else to help us win. It went well last night."

Thunder guard James Harden, who also comes off the bench but was recognized as the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, said Collison was invaluable in the victory over the Heat.

"It's not about his points, it's about everything he does that doesn't go on the stat sheet," he said. "His charges. His presence around the rim contesting LeBron James' lay-ups in the fourth quarter.

"Things like that. He's just everywhere, in the right place at the right time. He's one of the keys to our success. He doesn't get the recognition but he deserves it."

Collison, 31, is one of only four remaining players drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics before they relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. Over the course of his eight-year NBA career, Collison averages 7.1 points and 6.1 rebounds.

The Thunder reached the Western Conference finals last season but hope to take it a step further this year. Despite being just three wins away from an NBA title, Collison still sees room for improvement.

"That's the biggest change we've faced the last couple of years," he said. "We've had all this talent, the guys that can score.

"Figuring out how to execute and make the right decision, we have to get better at that."

Game Two of the best-of-seven series is Thursday night.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)