The Thunder signed Derek Fisher on March 21, and we got all excited. A Laker is coming, a Laker is coming.
Fisher showed up, spoke with command and wisdom and humanity, and we saw what made him such a great leader, on and off the court, for 16 NBA seasons.
Then Fisher donned the Thunder threads, played a game or 10, and we saw an old man. Saw a 37-year-old who couldn't stay in front of younger point guards anymore and couldn't seem to hit all those clutch shots we saw swish for the Lakers when the NBA was but a gleam in our eye.
The Thunder was 34-12 when Fisher arrived and led the Western Conference by 3½ games. With Fisher, the Thunder went 13-7, including 7-7 in its final 14 games, and finished behind the Spurs in the West. Fisher shot 34 percent from the field.
But we forgot one thing. The Thunder didn't sign Fisher to play against the Timberwolves in March or against the Kings in April.
The Thunder signed Fisher for the playoffs. Signed Fisher for the games that are paramount. Signed Fisher for the series in which possessions are magnified, the series in which guts and guile rise in value.
Old man? No fooling. Old man winner.
The Thunder finished off a sweep of the Mavericks on Saturday night, and Fisher was superb. Just like he was all series long.
Fisher made five of his six shots, both of his 3-point shots, and scored 12 points. Better yet, the Thunder flourished with Fisher on the court. Outscored Dallas by 21 points with Fisher in the game.
Which was nothing new. Fisher also was plus-11 in a tight Game 2. For the series, James Harden led the Thunder in plus/minus – with Harden on the floor, OKC outscored the Mavericks by 48 points in the four games. Fisher was second with plus-36.
That's better than Kevin Durant (plus-20), Russell Westbrook (plus-8), Serge Ibaka (plus-29), Kendrick Perkins (plus-13) or Nick Collison (plus-19).
Fisher's plus/minus would have been even better if not for the last 41/2 minutes of Game 3, when he was on the court with the third-stringers as Dallas outscored the Thunder 10-0 to close out an OKC rout.
“Derek made big shots,” said Scotty Brooks. “He had a great series.”
In four games against the Mavs, Fisher made five of eight 3-pointers. Among players with more than three 3-point attempts in these playoffs, only the Clippers' Nick Young (7-of-10) has shot a better percentage from long range.
That's nothing new for Fisher. He's a career 37.3 percent 3-point shooter in the regular season. In the playoffs, that figure rises to 40.5 percent.
Forty-percent 3-point shooting is winning basketball in the playoffs, when every team is some level of good or great and defensive intensity rises.
Know why attack dog James Harden was so effective down the stretch Saturday night? Because the Thunder stuck Fisher in one corner, Durant and Westbrook in the other corner or a wing, and dared Dallas defenders to leave them.
The Mavericks were torn. Fisher had nailed two 3-pointers in the third quarter. Durant nailed two within 81 seconds midway through the fourth quarter.
The Mavs didn't know what to do.
And even though it seemed Harden made every play down the stretch, not so. With 4:05 left in the game and the shot clock winding down and the Thunder up 92-91, Fisher drove the lane and flipped a baby hook shot off the glass and in. The Mavs never got closer than three again.
After the game, Mav coach Rick Carlisle talked about the Thunder's “certain look in their eye, not just that they belong but this could be their time.”
Good quote. You probably read it. But it didn't stop there.
“The addition of Fisher has helped cultivate that in their locker room,” Carlisle.
Fisher is what's known as a pro's pro. A leader in the locker room, dependable on the court, in the most important games of the season. Now we know why the Thunder jumped all over Old Man Laker.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.