Veteran Savvy of Fisher, Mohammed Plays Big Role for Thunder
Derek Fisher and Nazr Mohammed are battle-tested professionals, with 273 playoff games and six NBA championship rings between them. They have seen it all, and know the value in staying ready for any situation.
Both men came up big in the Thunder’s series-clinching 103-97 victory over Dallas in Game 4 here Saturday night.
Fisher scored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including a finger-roll basket with 4 minutes, 5 seconds remaining to put the Thunder up, 94-91. In his last three games, Fisher scored 33 points on 14-for-21 shooting, and he was 5-for-8 from the 3-point line.
“Derek made big shots for us. He had a great series,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said.
Mohammed, who saw his first playing minutes in the series late in Game 3, was needed Saturday when starting center Kendrick Perkins strained his right hip in the first quarter and did not return. Mohammed played 11:14 and scored four points and grabbed two rebounds.
“Nazr is a pro,” Brooks said. “This series, because of the matchups, it was going to be a tough series for Nazr to get his minutes, but he has to be ready when we need him. His 11 minutes were big for us … all of his minutes were important.”
Mohammed routinely stays late after practice, working with assistant coaches on his post-up game, his mid-range game and keeping his mind and body ready. Sweat regularly beads off his face and body. Game days are no different. He works with the strength and conditioning coaches on a variety of exercises before joining his teammates in the official warm-up.
Saturday night, that work ethic paid dividends for his team. The Thunder needed big bodies to defend the Mavs’ Dirk Nowitzki, and with Perkins sidelined, that put additional pressure on Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Mohammed.
In a game that featured offensive dominance from James Harden, defensive brilliance from Russell Westbrook and all-around excellence from Kevin Durant, it was the play of the entire team that ultimately helped the Thunder close out the Mavericks and advance to the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Ten players saw minutes, and ten players contributed winning plays.
“I think it’s been consistent with what we’ve been trying to do the entire time, and that’s to play as a team and realize that our success will lie in our ability to play as a team,” Fisher said. “Not just depending on Kevin and Russell to carry the day, but contributions from everyone. With Perk going down tonight, we needed our guys to step up even more and I thought everyone responded extremely well.”