The last thing Gregg Popovich did before turning and walking off the court to a stream of orange-and-blue confetti was seek out an old nemesis.
Derek Fisher stood at the other end of the floor, on the same hunt for the San Antonio Spurs coach.
The two pointed at each other.
Popovich even smiled.
“I respect the hell out of him,” Popovich said, shortly after Fisher helped tear his team to shreds. “I've known him a long time. We've had dinner before when he was thinking about signing contracts, I mean, 10, 15 years ago. … So it was just fun to give him a little credit and let him know that we noticed. How could you not?”
In a battle of the best two teams the Western Conference has to offer, it was Fisher, the polarizing 17-year veteran, who stepped up as the unexpected protagonist and dealt yet another defeat to one of his biggest rivals.
Fisher scored 17 points off the bench to help power the Thunder to a 100-88 victory over the Spurs on Thursday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. In 15 minutes, Fisher made six of eight shots, including five of seven from 3-point range, with each subsequent basket bigger than the previous one.
“We never worried about Fish when he was missing some shots. We knew we were going to keep going to him and giving him confidence,” said Kevin Durant. “And tonight, he came up big.”
Fisher's sharpshooting helped the Thunder break a recent slump from behind the arc and finish 12 of 24 from 3-point range.
The victory also allowed the Thunder to pull within a half-game of the Spurs in the race for the conference's top seed. Oklahoma City now controls its own destiny and can secure home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs by winning out.
That's all Fisher was focused on after what was by far his best performance in a Thunder uniform this season.
“That's pretty much the only thought going into every game is that we win,” Fisher said. “You can look at a stat sheet after a game and single out certain things. But at the end of the night. It's about our team winning the game. And so when that happens, I'm not as concerned about what I did in particular as long as I helped us win.”
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