NBA@2: Derek Fisher The Championship Factor?
The Los Angeles Lakers had every intention of sending a message to the Oklahoma City Thunder when they came calling on Thursday night. Derek Fisher or no Derek Fisher, the Lakers wanted to put the Thunder, and by extension the entire NBA, on notice that they are preparing to add another championship ring to Kobe Bryant’s impressive collection.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the Thunder had other plans.
The Lakers got a fast start out of the gates, outscoring the Thunder 30-18 in the first quarter, but from the second quarter on it was all OKC. The Thunder outscored the Lakers 26-19 in the second quarter and 34-19 in the third, and then coasted to a 102-93 win.
It’s significant to note that neither Bryant nor Thunder star Kevin Durant had a particularly impressive game. Bryant scored 23 points, but shot just 7-of-25 from the field. Durant scored 21 points on 10-for-22, short of his 27.7 per game average. The real star of the game was actually Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who is under new guidance from none other than discarded Lakers point guard Derek Fisher.
“He’s a real professional and knows how to prepare himself for different things,” said Westbrook, who scored a game-high 36 points and dished six assists for OKC. “I just sit back and watch.”
Fisher was the driving force behind the second quarter turnaround for the Thunder, scoring seven points in a little over two minutes to help turn the tide of the game.
“It was very important,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Fisher’s contribution. “We were struggling at the time, but he kept it within reach. That’s what he brings. He brings toughness. He brings smart play and he makes good plays, and it’s not just about him scoring.”
Westbrook admitted he felt a little extra motivation based on his new teammate’s desire to take out his former team.
“Derek wanted this win,” Westbrook said. “We came out and played hard for him. I know it’s an emotional time for him, but we came out with the win.”
Patrick Patterson Talks Houston Rockets, UK Basketball
Houston Rockets forward Patrick Patterson talks with HOOPSWORLD about his childhood basketball idols, Kevin McHale’s impact on his game, University of Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis and more in this exclusive interview.
Equal Opportunity Fueling Rockets?
The Houston Rockets may not have a superstar player, but they are still very much in the playoff hunt as the NBA enters the final three weeks of regular season play. One reason the Rockets (27-24) have remained so competitive in the brutal Western Conference is because head coach Kevin McHale’s system gives every player a chance to be the offensive focal point.
“I think the strength of our team all year was pretty much ball movement, body movement,” says McHale. “The ball doesn’t stick. We really don’t go to one guy; it’s pretty much equal opportunity offense. Guys drive and kick, play for each other and the more bodies you have the better off you are in that system. We’re running out now a little bit. We need everybody to hopefully get back and healthy for the stretch run here, but we have to make do. The NBA is not a league where people take too much pity on you.”
McHale believes that ball movement and his equal opportunity offense helps motivate his players to stay ready to contribute at all times, even when they might seem outmatched by star-laden opponents.
“Yeah, you hope so. Then there are times when guys play really well and then there touches go up, the ball finds them more or you run a few more plays for them or something. But pretty much for the most part, we’re a team that really relies on more ball movement and body movement as opposed to set plays. We’re not going to this guy, we’re not going to that guy, we’re just starting it off with what we think might be an advantage where you get a drive and kick or maybe force a double team. After that we’re just playing.”
In this space this week we’ve talking with and about some of the impressive young players behind Houston’s record. Goran Dragic has played remarkably well while starting for Kyle Lowry and Courtney Lee has fans in Houston thinking perhaps Kevin Martin isn’t entirely necessary. Today we take a look at second-year forward Patrick Patterson, whom McHale believes can be a dominant force in the NBA.
“I think that Patrick’s got to (be),” says McHale. “Patrick’s got to be a guy that goes out and really looks to leave an imprint on every game. I think Patrick sometimes is very content to go out there and, you know, he plays hard all the time. He’s a tremendous defender. He’s really smart and just understands how to play but there are times you have to go out there and try to dominate the game. That’s what we keep on telling him to do, go out there and be a force every time you’re out there.”
As things stand today the Rockets are clinging to the West’s eighth seed, tied with the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz. The Phoenix Suns are just two games behind, while the Dallas Mavericks are just 1.5 games ahead in the sixth seed. The Rockets hold their fate in their own hands, and have a fighting chance to make the playoffs even without a superstar and while two starters watch from the sidelines.
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