Scott Brooks On The X-Factor the Thunder Finally Eliminating Memphis In Game 7: “We don’t win the series without Nick Collison.”

May 17, 2011 – 7:00 am by Steven Cuce

After the Mother’s Day Massacre of the Los Angeles Lakers, which included a series clinching sweep in game four by the Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki and Co. waited an eternity for their next opponent in the Western Conference Finals. That opponent will be the Oklahoma City after the Thunder cruised by the Memphis Grizzlies, 105-90, in game seven of the Western Conference Semi-Finals on Sunday afternoon.

Coming off the worst performance of his playoff career in game six, Kevin Durant made sure he had the last laugh in this series, exploding for 39 points in game seven despite getting off to a slow start in the seventh and deciding game. Russell Westbrook had his first playoff triple-double, the first Game 7 triple double since Scottie Pippen did so in the early ’90s. The most important ingredient in the Thunder’s game seven thrashing of the Grizzlies however was absolutely shutting the door on Zach Randolph’s offensive game. Nick Collision turned out to be the most important role player of all for Scott Brooks. You wouldn’t need Randolph to confirm this if you watch the multiple replays of Collison barely giving Randolph room to breath when he touched the basketball. You need those types of unexpected clutch contributions to advance in the playoffs, and the Thunder definitely received them from Collison and others on the OKC roster not named Durant or Westbrook.  It’s time to bring on the Mavericks for this young Thunder team in the Western Conference Finals.

Scott Brooks joined the Scott Van Pelt Show with Ryen Russillo on ESPN Radio (with fill-in host Doug Gottlieb) to discuss who he feels is the best defender on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Nick Collison being the biggest factor in the series clinching victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in game seven Sunday afternoon, the difficulty of defending the Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals, who will be assigned the task of defending Dirk Nowitzki, and if there’s a feeling amongst him, his staff and players that the Oklahoma City Thunder have a legitimate shot at an NBA Championship.

Who is the most important defender on the Thunder: Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka or Nick Collison?

“Wow that’s a great question. Can I take all three? I will take all of the above. I was good in that class [In response to a joke made by the hosts that Brooks wasn't allowed to answer all three of the players listed].”

I don’t know if you win game seven without the defensive play of Nick Collison?

“You know what we don’t win the series without Collison. One of the things…I was a role player for many years and it’s hard for a role player to impact the game after game after game after game. Yes you can have a pretty good game occasionally, but he impacted that game every night. Even the games we lost he gave us a chance. He’s just one of those guys that every team needs to be successful. He just does everything on the court. He makes winning basketball plays on both ends. He doesn’t score a lot of points, but he helps us score points by his screens, by his ball movements, by just his decisions on the court. The spacing is perfect. His defensive rotations are usually flawless, when he does make a mistake you are shocked, but it doesn’t happen often. He’s a winner.”

How difficult is to switch playing styles against the Nuggets then onto the Grizzlies and now a short turnaround to the Mavericks?

“It’s a definitely a different style. Memphis is very good. They are physical. It was like a playing a football game because every possession was a fight. It was a battle and we were fighting for ground and space on the floor, but Dallas they space you so well, their passing, they make you chase the ball around the court. We have to do a great job. We have to make that transition quickly because we could be down pretty quick. Our guys came back today. We had a nice film session. We had a great little short practice and we are dialed in. Hopefully we can give Dallas a great game tomorrow because we respect them. They have so many great weapons, but we have some weapons too that we are going to try to take advantage of ourselves.”

Who defends Dirk Nowitzki for you guys?

“We will start off with our normal rotation with Serge Ibaka. Serge will get the first crack at him, but we are going to have to send multiple defenders at him. He’s unique and as gifted of a forward as I have ever seen. The way he scores from the three, scores from the free thrown line, he scores from the block, he scores in so many awkward ways. He makes tough shots look easy because he does it so many times that you look at it and say that’s a tough shot, but he makes it every time.”

Is there ever any concern that your team has accomplished something and now is the time to relish the moment and take advantage of it?

“You know that’s interesting because you hear the phrase often ‘Hey they should just be happy to be here,’ but looking at our guys today in our film room they’re not just happy to be here. We feel that there’s four teams trying to fight to play basketball in June and we are one of them. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do know this: Our guys are going to play with a tremendous amount of effort and hopefully our execution keeps improving every game, but our guys feel this is the year we can win. We have as good of a chance as the other three teams and we are going to go for it.”

Listen to Scott Brooks on ESPN Radio here

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