In few minutes, Nick Collison does little things Thunder need to advance
Oklahoma City veteran power forward Nick Collison hadn't checked into Game 6 for even a few seconds Thursday night at Los Angeles.
And even though Thunder coach Scott Brooks had only played the former Kansas University star 7.4 minutes a game in the previous five contests against the Clippers, that didn't mean the coach lacked confidence in Collison. Far from it.
When Serge Ibaka suffered a calf injury, Collison entered the game for the first time with 7:24 left in the third quarter, and subtly helped OKC clinch the series with a 104-98 road win that moved the Thunder on to the Western Conference finals.
Like most nights, Collison's numbers didn't jump out of the box score and slap you across the face: 17 minutes, 1-for-1 from the floor, 1-for-2 at the foul line, 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block.
But his impact came almost immediately when he subbed in with OKC down five points to the Clippers. Within a minute, Collison grabbed a defensive rebound and blocked a J.J. Redick layup.
In the final minutes of the third, he dished a pass to Russell Westbrook for a layup and closed the quarter with a game-tying 3-pointer from the corner.
The clutch shot was Collison's eighth 3-pointer. Of his career — regular season and playoffs combined.
“Nick has taken 1000 shots from the corner, from the three-point line, and hasn’t had many opportunities this season. That was a big bucket. I love the fact that we trusted him. We see him work every day and it’s nice our guys rewarded him with a nice, clean pass and the belief he was going to make that shot.”
Collison kept chipping in during the fourth quarter, with Ibaka unavailable:
• Rebounding to finish a defensive stop
• Drawing a foul on Blake Griffin, who would foul out a couple minutes later
• Securing an errant Chris Paul pass for a steal
• Dishing to Steven Adams for a jam that put OKC up nine with 4:28 to go
After playing 17 straight minutes, during which the Thunder outscored the Clippers by 16, Collison left the floor with his team up 10 points and just 2:27 left on the game clock.
"What an outstanding performance by a true pro," ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said as Collison checked out of the game.
Berry Tramel, who covers the Thunder for NewsOK.com, further detailed what Collison brought to the win — defense.
Collison stayed in the game until Blake Griffin fouled out with 2:27 left. In those 17 minutes, Griffin made just three of eight shots and went to the line just once, making one of two. That’s seven points in 17 minutes against Collison. Of those eight Griffin shots, only five came from inside, where Griffin’s muscle can be too much for anyone, including Collison.
Collison, one of the league's ultimate role players, didn't mind getting his hands dirty for stops down the stretch.
The victory advanced Oklahoma City to the West finals, where the Thunder will meet San Antonio. Game 1 is Monday night (8 p.m., TNT).
Down to two
'Hawks in the NBA Paul Pierce (Brooklyn), Drew Gooden (Washington) and Thomas Robinson (Portland) all got knocked out of the playoffs in the second round.
Only Collison and Miami's Mario Chalmers remain alive in the hunt for the NBA championship.
The Heat play at Indiana on Sunday afternoon (2:30 p.m., ABC).
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