For three quarters, Kevin Martin made life miserable for the Thunder on Sunday night, showing Oklahoma City exactly what it used to have and, in many ways, what it now misses.
He splashed in 3-pointers.
He worked his way to the foul line.
He scored in bunches.
As the game entered the final period, Martin had poured in 22 points for Minnesota, making six of his 12 shot attempts. He was 4-for-7 from 3-point range and 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
But then Thunder coach Scott Brooks unleashed his bulldog.
“I told him, ‘No (double teams). No switches. You're guarding him. I don't care where he goes, you're guarding him.'”
Derek Fisher got the message.
And when he latched himself onto Martin, Fisher disrupted Minnesota's entire offense, one that had been torching the Thunder for the better part of the previous 36 minutes.
The final score, a 113-103 Thunder win, was a reflection of the defensive effort Fisher put forth to help turn the tide.
Fisher locked himself to Martin and chased him through screens. He bodied up to the Thunder's former sixth man and cut off his air space.
“I thought it was important for us to be able to be physical with him and make a difference but not put him and their team on the free throw line,” Fisher said. “You can feel when you're making a difference, and I felt like I was making it as difficult as possible for him to score.”
Minnesota made just six of 23 field goals in the final frame and wound up getting outscored, 35-20.
Martin missed all four of his field goals — the first two coming with Fisher hounding him — and scored only two points in that decisive stretch.
“He just knows how to play,” Martin said of Fisher. “He's been around for a long time. He knows how to get under a scorer's skin. He can do that from time to time.”
Fisher has made a habit of it this season.
Martin felt the same fourth-quarter frustration that Fisher already has forced players such as O.J. Mayo, Randy Foye and Jamal Crawford into.
That constant defensive presence has all but mandated that Brooks make Fisher a mainstay in fourth-quarter lineups this season. Nearly 50 percent of Fisher's minutes this year have come in the fourth period.
Sometimes he scores. Other times he doesn't.
But through stout defensive stretches like the seven minutes he saw in Sunday's fourth quarter, Fisher is again proving his worth.
“It's mental, I guess, more than physical,” Fisher said of his ability to still impact the game defensively despite not being a focal point of the offense. “The physical preparation is already there. Mentally, it's just about staying locked into the game even though it's 30-plus minutes you're not in. Still thinking the game. Still watching what's happened out there. Still visualizing the guys you might be guarding.
“And then, once I'm in there, it's just about making a positive impact on the game. However that happens, a shot, no shot, just helping the team win, that's what my goal is.”