To put a finer point on things, let's replace the word "starters" with "Kendrick Perkins." In his 82 minutes on the court, the Thunder have been outscored by a whopping 32 points. In his 62 minutes on the bench, the advantage has titled nearly as strongly the other way: The Thunder are plus-23.
And those slow starts? They've magically ended at the exact second Perkins departed. Oklahoma City trailed by five in Game 1 before he went out, by nine in Game 2, and by 15 in this one — 29 points worth of deficits to make up the rest of the night. The Thunder overcame it in Game 2 by scoring on nine straight possessions right after Perk went to the bench; in the other two games, the hill was too big to climb.
Of course, this could just be noise. Sometimes plus-minus fluctuates randomly for reasons that have little to do with a player's performance. After watching the three games, however, this isn't one of those cases. For starters, Perkins has made a limited statistical contribution, with only 11 points and 14 rebounds in the three games. His main function seemed to be going out of his way to run into Tyson Chandler off the ball.
This can't be possible. Kendrick Perkins is a dominant defender, rugged rebounder, paint occupier and vicious screen-setter. A man whose toughness can win a series alone.
My venom is not directed at Perk. It's directed at those who inflated his value in Boston and insisted on blaming the Celtics short-comings on the Trade.
(h/t Perry Manno)