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NBA Finals: Thabo Sefolosha’s second-half defense made Thunder’s scoring flurry even more valuable

THUNDER 105, HEAT 94 — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook did their parts in OKC’s Game 1 win. But Thabo Sefolosha and Derek Fisher played significant roles as well; Sefolosha’s defense on the Heat stars, and Fisher’s calm leadership.

By John Rohde Modified: June 13, 2012 at 12:00 am •  Published: June 13, 2012

Sefolosha finished with two steals, one blocked shot and a handful of deflections.

Ivey then tried to explain how Sefolosha deflects the ball to himself for a steal.

“He mirrors the ball a lot,” Ivey said. “When you get lazy, the ball smacks his hand and deflects it where he can go and get it. He’s probably one of the best in the league to do that.

“Thabo is 6-foot-7, he’s quick and he has long arms, so he can guard anywhere from a 1 (point guard) probably to a 4 (power forward).”

That means Sefolosha is available to defend anyone from Mario Chalmers to LeBron James, and Brooks just might ask Sefolosha to do precisely that.

Derek Fisher’s five world championship rings certainly came in handy in Game 1.

The 37-year-old Thunder reserve guard finished with six points, shot 3 for 5 from the field, grabbed three rebounds and also one assist.

Modest totals, yes, but it was Fisher who calmed the nerves of some fidgety teammates in the early going, scoring all of his points before intermission.

“I didn’t necessarily sense (nerves), but it made sense,” Fisher said. “As you watched the first half unfold — I wasn’t in each guy’s head or in their mind — but you could expect and anticipate that guys would just feel overwhelmed by the opportunity.

“Guys work their entire life to get an opportunity to play in the Finals and play for a championship, so nerves and anxiety are to be expected, but as I stated before, these guys are fearless and just love competing, and tonight they showed that we’re capable of just playing through any set of circumstances and figuring out a way to win.”

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Fisher also held OKC steady by playing 9:45 in the fourth quarter, spending much of his time defending 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward Udonis Haslem.

Fisher spoke of the importance for role players to somehow change the game.

“Sometimes, you’re making shots,” Fisher said. “Other times, you’re doing a lot of the little things, like what Nick Collison did tonight in terms of offensive rebounds and taking charges, hustling to loose balls. Those are the things that win games for us, so that’s what I try to focus on, and I think all of our guys have done a great job being game ready when they step out on the court and we’re going to need that in order to continue to accomplish our goals.”

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