When Derek Fisher became a free agent this spring following his trade from the Lakers to the Rockets and subsequent buyout agreement with Houston, he went searching for a chance at a sixth NBA championship.
After Wednesday night and a few more big shots to add to his lengthy postseason resume, Derek and the Oklahoma City Thunder sit on the doorstep of just that.
D-Fish found a fit in OKC and now he's headed to his 8th career Finals. (Getty Images).
Big Shot Fish did it again in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and with his help the Thunder are headed to the NBA Finals. Derek only tallied nine points during his 23 minutes on the floor, but they were big ones, including two clutch fourth quarter scores as the Thunder closed out the series with a 107-99 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
After the game D-Fish — normally a man of many words — had to take pause and even then struggled to describe the feeling of heading to his eighth NBA Finals in his 16 seasons.
"It is hard to stop and reflect, to be honest," Fisher said. "I am just thankful for my opportunity to play and be a part of this game. At the appropriate time I will be able to look back and reflect on this special time, but we still have some unfinished business to complete, but we took a big step closer tonight in accomplishing our goal."
The Thunder know their goal is just four wins away (Getty Images).
Wednesday's game came down to a fourth quarter tussle between the best two teams in the West. Oklahoma City had trailed by as many as 18 points earlier in the game, but a third quarter surge cut the deficit to just one entering the fourth. After playing just the final 83 seconds of that third, Derek played the entire fourth with the Thunder starters.
"It's a lot of trust to put on a guy that's only been around for a couple of months," Fish told the New York Times of Coach Scott Brooks' decision to play him over the starter and defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha. "But at the same time, that's what I was brought here for."
Fran Blinebury of NBA.com explained why Brooks made the decision:
"For all the talk about young legs, it didn't hurt for the Thunder to have an old head and ancient beating heart in their midst coming down the stretch of Game 6.
Look at the lineup employed by OKC coach Scott Brooks in the biggest quarter in Thunder history: 23-year-old Kevin Durant and 23-year-old Russell Westbrook played all 12 minutes of the final period. So did 37-year-old Derek Fisher."
San Antonio opened the fourth with a bucket to go up by three, but OKC scored five of the next six points to take control. With 6:56 to go, they held a six-point advantage. But the Spurs rallied back, pulling within two on a turnaround banker by Tim Duncan with 4:51 to go.
But as if channeling a page directly from Game 4 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, Derek answered the Duncan shot with a monumental one of his own. A corner trey that ended a 7-3 Spurs run and put OKC in front by five. Perhaps it was TNT's Reggie Miller that said it best as Derek stood in the corner and buried the three-point dagger.
"Derek Fisher is the modern-day Robert Horry. Big shot after big shot."
San Antonio clawed back to within four with under two minutes remaining, but a pull-up two from Fish, banked exquisitely off the glass, re-established a six-point Thunder lead. They outscored the Spurs 6-2 over the final two minutes to lock up their place in the NBA Finals.
Afterward, Blinebury wrote: "For all their talent, the Thunder needed a Yoda. And make no mistake about it, even in his 16th NBA season, Yoda can still hit the clutch jumper." While Barry Tramel of The Oklahoman gave the performance an 'A' on his Game 6 report card.
Derek Fisher: A. It wasn't exactly the 2004 shot that sank the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, but Fisher again pierced San Antonio's soul. His 3-pointer with 4:35 left in the game gave OKC a 96-91 lead. The Spurs never again had possession with a chance to tie. Fisher played the entire fourth quarter, even effectively guarded Parker down the stretch.
Derek's bank shot with under two to go capped a great evening in OKC (Getty Images).
One more step remains for D-Fish and the Oklahoma City Thunder to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
The NBA Finals begin on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City with either the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics visiting Chesapeake Energy Arena. The East's two teams are still battling for the other spot in the Finals.
Either way, with Dallas, Los Angeles and the Spurs already behind them and the 2006 (Miami) or 2008 (Boston) champions in front of them, OKC will have to go through the winners of five of the last six titles and 11 of the last 13, to win it all. Derek believes they can do it.
"It's happening before our eyes. We're just playing and doing it for each other. Great things can happen when you play for each other."
Tuesday's Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off at 8 p.m. CDT on TNT. Check out the rest of the schedule below: