During a late timeout in Game 6 on Friday, Scott Brooks greeted veteran reserve guard Derek Fisher at the bench area by grabbing his face and telling the 38-year-old veteran just how much his performance meant to the Thunder coach.
“What I saw tonight was some of the most inspiring play I've ever seen in all my playing time and in coaching,” Brooks said. “The guy laid everything on the line. He was probably one of the best players in the game.”
Fisher guarded ex-teammate James Harden virtually the entire fourth quarter, holding the Rockets star to six points and 2-of-6 shooting. Fisher also scored eight points on 3-of-3 shooting. Fisher's steal off Harden led to a Kevin Durant dunk that gave the Thunder a 94-84 lead midway through the quarter. Then Fisher's 3-pointer made it 97-84 with 5:26 left.
Brooks said Fisher was forcing Harden to “make tough shots and making him make tough decisions, and for him to do that every single play down the court is a testament to his character.”
Brooks did not substitute in the fourth quarter Friday night. He stuck with Durant, Fisher, Reggie Jackson, Nick Collison and Kevin Martin the entire 12 minutes.
The Rockets scored just 17 fourth-quarter points, and five of those came in the final minute, when the game was over.
“The biggest thing was, every pass was contested, every shot was contested and every catch was felt by our guys,” Brooks said. “Our guys got into them. I told them at the third-quarter break that if your man doesn't feel you, you're not doing your job and you've disappointed your teammates.”
The Thunder was perfect from the foul line, going 16 of 16. For the series, the Thunder made 84.8 percent of its foul shots.
“We needed every one of them,” Brooks said. “We are a good free-throw shooting team. Our guys improve. We feel like it's a very important part of the game. We work on it. It's not something that we hope to get better at. We work at it everyday. Free throws, we do it every single day, every shootaround, every practice.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Courtesy of Bovada in Las Vegas, here are the latest playoff odds (prior to Saturday's Brooklyn-Chicago game:
Win NBA Championship
Miami Heat 4/9
San Antonio Spurs 11/2
OKC Thunder 9/1
Memphis Grizzlies 14/1
New York Knicks 14/1
Indiana Pacers 25/1
Golden State Warriors 40/1
Chicago Bulls 75/1
Brooklyn Nets 75/1
Win Eastern Conference
Miami Heat 2/11
New York Knicks 6/1
Indiana Pacers 12/1
Brooklyn Nets 40/1
Chicago Bulls 40/1
Win Western Conference
San Antonio Spurs 5/7
OKC Thunder 3/1
Memphis Grizzlies 5/1
Golden State Warriors 9/1
Thunder veteran Nick Collison came off the bench, had 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds in Game 6.
The OKC bench outscored the Rockets' reserves 46-11 and held a 17-8 advantage in rebounding.
Jackson on Fisher's mental approach to the playoffs: “It's a mental battle, this game. Mentally, I haven't seen anybody prepare like him. He can tell himself that he can do things that maybe his body probably shouldn't. He's a great competitor and a great leader out there for us.”