Posts tagged with Nick Collison

Veteran Nick Collison ready to work with new coach Billy Donovan

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) shoots in front of Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during an NBA basketball game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. Oklahoma City won 104-89. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) shoots in front of Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during an NBA basketball game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. Oklahoma City won 104-89. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

In his 11 NBA seasons since graduating from Kansas, Nick Collison has played for just one franchise: the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Super Sonics).

He began his professional career playing for coach Nate McMillan, then Bob Weiss, Bob Hill and P.J. Carlesimo before spending the past six seasons under Scott Brooks.

As Collison’s career winds down, he’ll play for a winner at the college level who hopes his own pro days are just beginning. Former Florida coach Billy Donovan took over as OKC head coach this offseason.

Collison had minor knee surgery recently, and his rehab has kept him around the Thunder’s facilities. His time there allowed the veteran to speak with Donovan on several occasions. Collison said in an interview on Oklahoma City’s website he tried to help the new coach get acclimated to the franchise.

At KU, Collison actually faced Donovan’s Gators in the 2002 Preseason NIT, and Florida won 83-73. Collison scored 16 points in the November setback before eventually helping the Jayhawks reach their seconds straight Final Four.

Kansas University's Aaron Miles, front, goes for a loose ball
against Florida's Anthony Roberson. The Gators beat the Jayhawks,
83-73, in the consolation game of the Preseason NIT on Friday in
New York.

Kansas University's Aaron Miles, front, goes for a loose ball against Florida's Anthony Roberson. The Gators beat the Jayhawks, 83-73, in the consolation game of the Preseason NIT on Friday in New York. by Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photos

Now the two basketball lifers are working together in the NBA. Collison said even with a coach as well known as Donovan, it takes working with someone to find out how well he might fit in. The 34-year-old power forward said Donovan already is learning a lot about the Thunder, its players and how the team needs to improve.

“He’s a very sharp guy. I think he’s going to do a good job,” Collison said.

While the 6-foot-10 backup big man and his OKC teammates have grown accustomed to Brooks and his staff the past several seasons, Collison said they need to be open to suggestions and changes with Donovan taking over.

“We’ve done things one way for a long time. A lot of things are going to be different. It doesn’t do any good to waste time fighting that,” Collison said. “We need to come in with the idea that we’re going to be open-minded, we need to get better and we need to buy into whatever the staff wants to do.”

Playing for a perennial title contender in Oklahoma City, Collison said the team has a lot of work to do after missing the playoffs this past season. The Thunder finished 45-37 and lost a tie-breaker with New Orleans for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. OKC surely would have won more games and perhaps made a deep postseason run had it not been forced to deal with so many injuries. Not a single player on the roster played in all 82 games. Star point guard Russell Westbrook missed 15 games, starting power forward Serge Ibaka missed 18 and franchise centerpiece Kevin Durant missed 55.

Collison said the Thunder always have had the pieces to be great and the team needs to improve defensively under Donovan to become even tougher to beat. Even though he described 2014-15 (Collison played in 66 of 82 games) as a struggle, the potential for next season seems limitless.

“There’s no guarantee that everyone is healthy all the time but we’re looking forward to having everybody back and are excited to play with the full squad again,” Collison said. “We have a ton of talent. We have a great roster. It’s going to hopefully be a really good year for us.”

Collison’s interview came after he spent some time talking hoops and the tricks of the up-and-under at the Thunder’s youth basketball camp

He said starting the summer with knee rehab should help him get to a good spot by the time the Thunder opens preseason camp this fall. As Collison’s knee gets stronger, he said he’ll add in more weight training. Once he’s cleared to get back to regular basketball activities, he’ll do a couple days of individual work and pickup games and take some days off for recovery.

“Knowing yourself in your 30’s, like the wise old man that I am,” joked Collison, who averaged a career low 4.1 points per game last season, “I think I have that figured out pretty well, a good mix, and I’ll be ready to go when camp starts.”

In the meantime, he knows the offseason is just as much about recharging your batteries after a long, draining campaign.

Kite surfers, @michaelcollison33, and I.

A photo posted by Nick Collison (@nicholascollison) on Jun 2, 2015 at 6:58pm PDT


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Nick Collison owes much of NBA longevity to time at KU

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, center, fights for the ball with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, left, and forward Nick Collison, right, in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Oklahoma City won 103-94. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson, center, fights for the ball with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, left, and forward Nick Collison, right, in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Oklahoma City won 103-94. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

In the midst of his 11th season in the NBA, Nick Collison gives much of the credit for his ability to stick around and contribute for so long to growing up around the game and his time as a Kansas Jayhawk.

Collison recently spoke about his pre-professional days in a video feature produced by the only organization he has ever played for in The Association: the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Super Sonics).

The video features footage from his prep days, including a pretty incredible interview with a very young-looking Collison, and, of course, highlights from his four years in crimson and blue.

Now a 6-foot-10, 255-pound veteran, Collison lived and breathed basketball growing up in Iowa, where his father, Dave, coached in the high school ranks.

“My last couple years of high school, I knew I was going to be able to play in college, and wanted to play in the NBA,” Collison shares, “so I think that’s when I really started taking it serious as a possible career.”

For more insight on his days at Kansas, the Thunder even track down the power forward’s KU coach, Roy Williams, now at North Carolina.

“First time I ever saw Nick Collison in a high school game was winning a state championship,” Williams says of the Iowa Falls native. “I though, ‘My gosh, what a complete player, what a competitive guy, what a leader out there on the court.’ I was just absolutely blown away.”

Collison went on to start in the 1999 McDonald’s All-American Game — played at Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum, in his home state — for the West team, with Carlos Boozer, Jonathan Bender, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Brett Nelson.

Why did he choose KU, instead of playing at Iowa or Iowa State, or someplace else?

“I realized that that would just be an incredible place for me to play, and Coach Williams would be a great coach to play for, and I started to look at it more of like, ‘How do I fit in ?’ and it just seemed like the best fit for me.”

Ku's Nick Collison (4) skies to block a shot by Iowa State's Omar
Bynum.

Ku's Nick Collison (4) skies to block a shot by Iowa State's Omar Bynum.

Collison says the aspects of his game he perfected at KU gave him an advantage over other role players once he got to the league, and allowed him to become the player he is.

“Everybody at this level is a great player and great athlete, but I’ve been able to stick around because my habits have been good and I’ve been able to be in the right place at the right time. And I owe a lot of that to Coach Williams and his staff.”

The former Kansas coach recalls how Collison led by his actions when he called Lawrence home. Williams marvels that the hard-working forward drew charges, sprinted back to play defense and dove on the floor without coaches asking him to do so.

“I don’t think I ever raised my voice at Nick Collison for four years. He made me a heck of a lot better coach. Won a lot of games because of his toughness, his competitiveness, his will to win.”

“He was such a good learner. He was a student of the game, and you explain things to him one time and showed it to him and he pretty much had it.”

Collison doesn’t play (16.1 minutes a game this season) or produce (3.9 points and 3.5 rebounds through 40 games) as much as he once did now that his career is winding down. But he says he always had a respect for the game and what it takes to play in the NBA.

“For me, that’s what really drives me. Knowing how fortunate I am to be at this level and how few people can get here.”

What’s more, Collison says he still knows this basketball thing is just a small part of the rest of his life

Check out the entire video from the Thunder:


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2014-15 season outlook: Nick Collison

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tip off October 28, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Nick Collison — Oklahoma City Thunder

6-foot-10 power forward | 11th season

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison, right, defends San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan during the first half of an NBA playoff basketball game on Monday, May 19, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison, right, defends San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan during the first half of an NBA playoff basketball game on Monday, May 19, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

2013-14 numbers: 81 games | 16.7 minutes | 4.2 points | 3.6 rebounds | 55.6 FG% | 71 FT%

A quintessential role player with one of the NBA’s first-class organizations, Nick Collison has done dirty work since he showed up in the league a decade ago.

Now the question is: how much longer will we see Collison boxing out, rebounding and diving for loose balls in an Oklahoma City uniform?

He has never played fewer minutes per game than he did last season (16.7). Never averaged fewer points in a season (4.2). Never brought in fewer rebounds a game (3.6).

Collison, who turns 34 this week, actually has reached the point in his career that he can — and has been —described as “aging” in the headline of a story.

NewsOK.com’s Anthony Slater recently asked Collison, in the final year of his contract with the Thunder, about what lies ahead.

“Everyone, always, you think about the future,” Collison said. “But one thing I’ve learned over the years, you can’t really ask yourself an unanswerable question. Someone told me that once and I think that’s a good way to look at it.”

In terms of its frontcourt rotation, OKC is trending young. The past two years, the organization has drafted Steven Adams and Mitch McGary — both big men in the mold of Collison: tough, crafty, don’t need touches to be effective while blending in with a star-laden lineup (see: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka). Perry Jones continues to develop as a viable option at power forward, too.

Adams essentially is Nick Collison Version 2.0. Whomever edited Grantland’s Bill and Jalen’s 2014-15 NBA Preview can’t even tell the difference between the two of them.

None by Carson Cunningham

So it stands to reason Collison’s minutes and production could drop a little more this coming season as Oklahoma City tries to get out of the West and back to the NBA Finals after falling short two years in a row.

However his role forms, it’s obvious coach Scott Brooks trusts Collison in every situation. Here is what the head coach told NewsOK.com:

“You could put him for five minutes or for 35 minutes,” Brooks said. “He’s going to give you everything he has.”

Old? Maybe. Reliable. Of course. In Collison’s preseason debut Tuesday, he hit all three of his shots and scored eight points in 11 minutes versus Utah.

He even drilled a pair of 3-pointers. (He has hit five in his career.)

None by Anthony Slater

So what do we expect out of Collison for the 2014-15 season?

His stats might take a decline. But we could still see him on the floor in crunch time as OKC chases the No. 1 seed in the West and an NBA championship.

Collison won’t be the guy on SportsCenter’s Top 10. He’ll be the guy in perfect position under the boards, making sure his man can’t get the rebound.

And he might just have a new go-to shot. From downtown.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat


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In few minutes, Nick Collison does little things Thunder need to advance

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) tangle in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 3, 2013. The Thunder won 108-104. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) tangle in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 3, 2013. The Thunder won 108-104. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

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.

None by KEVIN DING

The clutch shot was Collison's eighth 3-pointer. Of his career — regular season and playoffs combined.

Brooks credited the 10th-year veteran for stepping up.

“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.

None by Ric Bucher

None by Lang Whitaker

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.

None by OKC THUNDER

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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Pierce wants to guard LeBron

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) looks to drive against Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the third period during Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal NBA playoff basketball game, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 104-90. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) looks to drive against Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the third period during Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal NBA playoff basketball game, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 104-90. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Paul Pierce and LeBron James have been battling in the NBA Playoffs for years.

The rivalry between the forwards began when Pierce played for Boston and James played for Cleveland, but it's continuing this postseason with Brooklyn and Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Given the history between the two, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Pierce approached his coach, Jason Kidd, about guarding his old nemesis — as detailed in a story by Ohm Youngmisuk for ESPNNewYork.com.

In Game 3, Brooklyn had to win to keep the best-of-seven series manageable, and Pierce helped limit the ever-explosive James to 12 points over the last three quarters of a 104-90 Nets win on Saturday, which cut Miami's lead to 2-1.

"I went to J-Kidd [for] Game 2 and said I want that assignment. ... I think I've guarded him more than anybody in this gym. I know his tendencies a little bit more and I just try to step up in that role and try to lead that way."

That conversation came after James hit 10 of 15 shots in Game 1. The four-time league MVP shot 9-for-18 in a Game 2 win, and then went 8-for-15 in Game 3.

Pierce's defense against LeBron certainly hasn't been flawless.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPRFQcXWGuY

But matchup data from NBA.com/stats shows that The Truth is making an impact on the defensive end. James and Dwyane Wade combined to score 48 of Miami's 90 points in the Miami's first loss of the playoffs. Pierce spent more time guarding one of those two in the half court than any other Brooklyn defender.

In 8:31 of game time, James and Wade got 29 half-court touches versus Pierce. They combined to score seven points — 3-for-7 field goals, 1-for-4 on 3-pointers and no trips to the foul line.

If it's up to the 36-year-old Pierce, one of the few people out there who believes Brooklyn can beat Miami and advance to the conference finals, he'll guard the 29-year-old LeBron the rest of the series. Averaging just 11.7 points a game in the series, Pierce told reporters he has to impact the game on defense.

"I don't have the offensive load that I had in the past where I set on having to carry us all the way offensively and then take the best defensive assignment. Now I can reserve a lot of energy toward trying to defend him. When the time comes for me to score, then I'll do that also."

Game 4 is at Brooklyn on Monday night (7 p.m., TNT).


Collison and Durant go way back

When Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant earned his first MVP award last week, he thanked each one of his Thunder teammates during an emotional acceptance speech.

The league's MVP made it clear through his words how important the honor was to him, but he also showed humility and appreciation for the players who helped him reach greatness.

Durant didn't come into the league playing at this level, and few know that better than Kansas alum Nick Collison. He has spent more time with Durant than any other player in an OKC uniform — the two began as teammates with the Seattle SuperSonics before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.

Due to his unique perspective (Collison has been teammates with Durant since KD entered the league), Sports Illustrated asked him to write about playing alongside Durant for seven seasons.

Collison shared how limited the future superstar was as a rookie, and how he developed into the unguardable monster he is today. Now in his 10th season out of KU, the backup power forward appreciates what the MVP has meant for his livelihood.

Look at my career. I'm viewed as a guy who does the little things that help a team win. I have a niche, even a little bit of a cult following. But if I were on a losing team, no one would talk about that. And the reason for that is Kevin, and Russell Westbrook. Their success raises all of us.

Collison closes the piece by saying what an honor it has been for him to play with Durant.

And the feeling is mutual.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKiYquVGU7Y

The Thunder are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers, 2-2, in a West semifinal. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Oklahoma City (8:30 p.m., TNT).


Social media buzz — Mother's Day edition

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Chalmers, Miami take Game 1 vs. Pierce, Brooklyn

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) drives to the basket as Brooklyn Nets' Deron Williams (8) defends in the first half of Game 1 in an Eastern Conference semifinal basketball game, Tuesday, May 6, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) drives to the basket as Brooklyn Nets' Deron Williams (8) defends in the first half of Game 1 in an Eastern Conference semifinal basketball game, Tuesday, May 6, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Arguably the two most successful 'Hawks in the NBA, Miami's Mario Chalmers and Brooklyn's Paul Pierce will be seeing a lot of each other in the coming days.

Chalmers and the Heat took a step toward the Eastern Conference finals by beating Pierce and the Nets, 107-86, Tuesday night in Miami.

Chalmers hit 5 of his 9 shots for 12 points in Game 1, while Pierce went 3-for-8 and scored 8 points.

The outcome and low point total for Pierce proved the playoffs are a lot different than the regular season — he averaged 21.3 points and the Nets swept Miami in four pre-playoffs meetings.

Of course, the 16-year veteran has been through enough grinding postseason series to know even a 21-point loss doesn't guarantee Miami anything. As Andrew Keh quoted Pierce for The New York Times:

“It was a 3-point game at the half, fellas. I mean, we’re not overreacting. We feel like we still can get a game in this building.”

And that came following a game in which Pierce only scored two points after the first quarter, with LeBron James often defending him in the second half. So don't expect confidence to be an issue in the Brooklyn locker room.

Miami fans, who grew to dislike Pierce when he played for Boston, aren't too fond of him in a Brooklyn uniform, either. Plus, colliding with Chalmers and sending his fellow KU product to the floor with a thud in Game 1 didn't win him any popularity points.

Game 2 of Nets-Heat tips off at 6 p.m. Thursday at Miami (on TNT).


The reemergence of Drew Gooden

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) celebrates after a play with Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) nearby in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 91-78. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) celebrates after a play with Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) nearby in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 91-78. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Someone forgot to tell Drew Gooden this isn't 2005. The 12th-year power forward isn't supposed to be able to sub in and produce a double-double, no problem. But that's just what Gooden did in Game 1 of Washington's second-round playoff series with Indiana on Monday.

In the Wizards' five first-round games against Chicago, Gooden played five minutes or less in four games, earning a DNP-coach's decision in the series finale. He scored all of two points in 26 minutes of floor time in Game 4.

So Gooden was the last guy in a D.C. uniform anyone expected 12 points and 13 rebounds out of in Game 1 at Indiana. Anyone not named Drew Gooden, that is. The 6-foot-10 Kansas product put up his first double-double since March 21 while playing 18 minutes in Washington's 102-96 victory over the East's top seed, the Pacers. What's more, most of his timely jumpers and tip-ins came in the second half, when Washington needed them.

Playing for his 10th NBA team, Gooden's stat line looked far better than those of Indiana big men Roy Hibbert (zero points, no rebounds), Ian Mahinmi (2 points, zero boards) and Luis Scola (12 points, five rebounds).

None by Kyle Weidie

None by Tom Haberstroh

The Washington Post's Michael Lee wrote about how Gooden, out of the NBA most of the 2013-14 regular season, kept his hopes up and stayed in shape before Washington picked him up in late February and then embraced his opportunity in D.C.

Wizards starting center Marcin Gortat told Lee Gooden changed Game 1.

“Thanks to him, obviously, we got this win. It was all about Drew Gooden. He was just outstanding. I guess they just underestimated this guy and, you know, he brought it. He’s a veteran. He’s a talented guy and you know, he knows how to put himself in the position to rebound the ball, and his timing today was very good.”

The 32-year-old Gooden, Lee pointed out, became the first player since the inception of the shot clock to have at least 12 points and 13 rebounds in only 18 minutes. After his critical playoff performance, the substitute big man couldn't believe that nugget.

“That’s a wow to me, because I know it’s been a lot of better players, a lot of greats that had that opportunity but to throw Drew Gooden in that mix, I’m flattered.”

We'll find out if Gooden can continue his role as the X-factor in the series when Game 2 tips off Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in Indiana (on TNT).


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On to the next round: Pierce, Chalmers, other Jayhawks advance in playoffs

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts with teammate Andray Blatche, right, after defeating the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Toronto, Sunday, May 4, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts with teammate Andray Blatche, right, after defeating the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Toronto, Sunday, May 4, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

During the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the narrative moved back and forth regarding how much Brooklyn needed veteran small forward Paul Pierce in crunch time.

In his 16th season out of Kansas, Pierce only scored 10 points in 25 minutes in Sunday's Game 7 at Toronto, but he made one of the top defensive plays of the postseason so far in the final seconds, blocking Raptors guard Kyle Lowry in the paint. His blocked shot sealed a 104-103 Brooklyn victory, and saved the Nets' postseason.

None by Stefan Bondy

If Lowry's shot had dropped through the net, Toronto would have moved on to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Instead, it will be Pierce and the Nets taking on back-to-back NBA champion Miami in the next round.

Newsday's Rod Boone and the rest of the media on hand spoke with an elated Pierce after the thrilling Game 7 win. The Truth was asked if he had ever swatted a shot to win a game.

"Nah, I don't think at this magnitude. On the road. Game 7. You're playing for your lives and you've got to sell out for your team.

"I really didn't have a great offensive game. I was in foul trouble most of the night and sometimes you've got to find ways to help your ball club win.

"I saw him go up, I went up with him, got my hand on the ball. Game over."

Pierce didn't make a basket in the fourth quarter, but he proved yet again he can still come through in crunch time.


On to the next round

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) exchanges words with Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce during an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in New York. Brooklyn won 101-100. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) exchanges words with Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce during an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in New York. Brooklyn won 101-100. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Pierce wasn't the only former Jayhawk to move on to the second round of the NBA Playoffs. In fact, his Nets will be up against another KU product, the Heat's Mario Chalmers, in the East semis.

Miami is one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals, but Brooklyn swept the Heat in the regular season, so this could be a long, exciting series with the Nets trying to knock out the defending champions.

After disposing of Toronto, Pierce told reporters the Nets know taking on LeBron James and the Heat will be quite a challenge. Here is what Pierce said in Lang Whitaker's preview for NBA.com:

"When you play against the best, as a competitor, you want those moments. If you look at all the great competitors in this league, they want to play against the other best [players], to see where they are, to see how they measure up throughout history. When you play against the best like LeBron, it brings out the best in I think everyone. I think that's in any sport, when you're a great competitor. And I consider myself a great competitor, who wants to be in those moments, who wants to play against who people call the best."

That mentality showed during the regular season, when Pierce averaged 21.3 points in Brooklyn's four wins versus the Heat — he didn't average 20 or more points against any other team in the league this year. Pierce hit 55.3% of his shots against Miami, 45% of his 3-pointers, and averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Chalmers, meanwhile, only played in three of the Heat-Nets games, and averaged 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He shot 40.7% from the floor, and did most of his damage from long range, drilling 57.1% of his 3's vs. Brooklyn.

Game 1 of Brooklyn vs. Miami is set for Tuesday night (6 p.m., TNT).

Among the rest of the 'Hawks in the NBA lucky enough to make it to the playoffs, only Chicago's Kirk Hinrich didn't move on to the second round.

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The Bulls were ousted by Washington, home of former KU power forward Drew Gooden. Though he only played 9.0 minutes a game in the first round and didn't even get off the bench in the Wizards' Game 5 victory, the typically jovial Gooden is looking forward to Washington's upcoming series with top seed Indiana.

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Gooden, a late-season acquisition in D.C., only faced the Pacers once this season, and had three points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of a Washington win on March 28. Indiana won the two previous regular-season matchups.

Game 1 of Wizards-Pacers tips off at 6 p.m. Monday (TNT).

Oklahoma City backup big man Nick Collison might only be a role player, but he's about to take part in what figures to be one of the most entertaining series of the playoffs as the Thunder take on the Los Angeles Clippers.

OKC and the Clippers split four regular-season encounters, in which Collison averaged 3.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in 15.8 minutes. Expect Collison to score easy baskets against the Clips, because he made 6 of the 7 shots he took against them this season.

The first game of Clippers-Thunder begins at 8:30 p.m. Monday (TNT).

For Thomas Robinson's season to continue on into the conference finals, his Portland Trail Blazers will have to oust always steady No. 1 seed San Antonio, the defending Western Conference champions.

The Spurs won the last two meetings with Portland to even the season series at 2-2.

Robinson played 13.3 minutes a game against San Antonio this season, averaging 4.8 points and 4.5 rebounds.

Game 1 of Blazers-Spurs tips off at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday (TNT).


Vaughn part of Magic's plan

Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, left, talks to Orlando Magic's Jameer Nelson in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Memphis, Tenn., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The Grizzlies defeated the Magic 94-85. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, left, talks to Orlando Magic's Jameer Nelson in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Memphis, Tenn., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The Grizzlies defeated the Magic 94-85. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Orlando (23-59) didn't come close to making the playoffs. But that really wasn't part of the organization's master plan.

Another key part of the blue print: keeping head coach Jacque Vaughn in place.

The Magic extended the former KU point guard's contract through the 2015-16 season, as reported by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

Robbins wrote that Vaughn, hired in the summer of 2012, has been patient as the franchise implemented a plan of rebuilding through the draft.

Vaughn started his head-coaching career with a 12-13 record. Since then, however, the Magic have posted a 31-108 record.

According to the report, Magic CEO Alex Martins and general manager Rob Hennigan have appreciated Vaughn's ability to build working relationships with players and "for maintaining an even keel despite the losing."

Vaughn and Orlando will find out May 20 at the NBA Draft Lottery just how useful the latest season of losing will be for the team's longterm success.


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Paul Pierce still doing playoff damage at 36

Toronto Raptors' Greivis Vasquez defends Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce (34) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, April 25, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 102-98. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Toronto Raptors' Greivis Vasquez defends Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce (34) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, April 25, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 102-98. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

He may not be flashy, his offense might not always be pretty, but it's hard to argue with results. Enjoying the most productive postseason among 'Hawks in the NBA, Paul Pierce, at 36, is still the best former Kansas player in the league.

A little more than a week into the NBA Playoffs, none of the other former Jayhawks chasing an NBA title have played as big a role for their team as Pierce has for Brooklyn.

Here's a look at the playoff averages for the six former Jayhawks in the hunt:

Paul Pierce, Brooklyn: 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 46.8% FGs, 31.4 minutes — Brooklyn tied with Toronto, 2-2

Kirk Hinrich, Chicago: 9.8 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 steal, 37.8% FGs, 31.9 minutes (age: 33) — Chicago trails Washington, 3-1

Mario Chalmers, Miami: 8.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 42.9% FGs, 50% 3s, 27.2 minutes (age: 27) — Miami leads Charlotte, 3-0

Nick Collison, Oklahoma City: 2.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 block, 40% FGs, 15.4 minutes (age: 33) — Oklahoma City tied with Memphis, 2-2

Thomas Robinson, Portland: 2.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 50% FGs, 8.2 minutes (age: 23) — Portland leads Houston, 3-1

Drew Gooden, Washington: 0.5 points, 0.8 rebounds, 25% FGs, 9.0 minutes (age: 32) — Washington leads Chicago, 3-1

Now in his 16th season, Pierce put up 22 points and hit 9 of 14 shots Sunday in Game 4 against Toronto.

The cagy head fakes and moves that kept Pierce's offense flowing all evening weren't enough for a Nets victory, though. The Raptors won, 87-79, because Pierce's layup with 6:12 to go was Brooklyn's last field goal of the game.

As Rod Boone wrote for Newsday, the Nets missed their last six shots and went turnover-crazy. Pierce knew they only had themselves to blame:

"I think a lot of it was on us, our execution, our turnovers. A combination of our turnovers and our lack of execution really did us in."

With his team now tied with Toronto, 2-2, in the best-of-seven series, Pierce told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News the Nets are capable of far better.

“You get in a playoff situation, one guy or two to three guys want to do it on their own instead of just running the offense, executing. I think we got caught up into that. When we learn our plays, we’ve got movement, we seem to score most of the time, but I just think we got out of our offense and that can’t happen in the playoffs. It’s got to come down to execution. You can’t have turnovers, especially in the fourth quarter.”

Unfortunately for the players and coaches around the league, there was more to discuss than the playoffs this weekend. A veteran leader on and off the court, Pierce also spoke about the alleged racist comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

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Gooden wisdom

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) shoots under pressure from Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) during the first half of Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Washington, Sunday, April 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) shoots under pressure from Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) during the first half of Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Washington, Sunday, April 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

With starting big man Nene suspended for Game 4, Washington gave veteran power forward Gooden 26 minutes of court time Sunday against Chicago.

It didn't translate into much production — two points, two rebounds — but Washington won, 98-89, to put the No. 4 seed Bulls in a 3-1 hole, and on the brink of elimination.

Still, Gooden had some wise words to share with Michael Lee of the Washington Post, regarding Game 5, Tuesday at Chicago (7 p.m., TNT).

“It’s an old saying: ‘Once satisfied, all forward progress ceases.’ So we don’t want to come in here satisfied with just three wins. We want to go in there and go for the jugular."

That wasn't the 12th-year pro's only line.

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Always entertaining, Gooden couldn't let himself off too easy for his stat line, either.

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Another Robinson denial

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) put sup a shot against Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) during the first half in Game 2 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) put sup a shot against Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) during the first half in Game 2 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

You can count on a couple of things in the first-round series between Portland and Houston.

First of all, each game will be entertaining (three of the four so far have gone to overtime). Secondly, Robinson will come off the bench and deny some Rocket at the rim.

Though the second-year power forward has played sparingly for the Trail Blazers, Robinson has delivered a highlight-worthy blocked shot four times in the series — Portland leads, 3-1.

On Sunday, he blocked Dwight Howard on an alley-oop attempt.

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Game 5 is 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Houston (TNT).


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Paul Pierce clutch in playoffs opener

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce, center, drives to the net against Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson, left, during the first half of Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Toronto on Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce, center, drives to the net against Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson, left, during the first half of Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Toronto on Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

For the first 30-plus minutes he spent on the court Saturday at Toronto, it didn't look like veteran Brooklyn small forward Paul Pierce would play a key role in the outcome of the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs series between the Raptors and Nets.

But when crunch time came around, Pierce instinctively took over, and led Brooklyn to a 94-87 win.

With the Nets holding a slim, one-point lead with less than four minutes to play, Pierce fed Kevin Garnett for his only bucket of the game, then proceeded to tap the fountain of youth and score nine straight Brooklyn points, helping his team amass an eight-point lead with a minute and a half left.

If you squint your eyes enough, it's like watching a young Paul Pierce in Boston green, instead of Brooklyn black.

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Pierce had just six points to his name late in the fourth quarter before taking over in front of a once enthused crowd at Air Canada Centre. NBA.com's John Schuhmann wrote about how Pierce's years of playoff experience helped Brooklyn close out a road win to open the best-of-seven series. Here's what Pierce had to say on the matter:

“You’ve been in those situations a number of times. I don’t get rattled in the fourth quarters, down the stretch of playoff settings. I just try to stay calm, bring my calmness to the game, and just try to influence the rest of the guys.”

"The Truth" isn't The Guy anymore, now that he's in his 16th season out of Kansas. But when the Raptors' defense focused on stopping his Nets teammates, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, Pierce feasted with a clutch, game-changing run.

“I thought it was part of great execution. They took away our first and second option and I was able to fill in as a third option and make some plays.”

Pierce and Brooklyn resume their series with Toronto Tuesday night.


Weekend recap: Hinrich only former Jayhawk to lose

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, left, shoots against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, April 20, 2014. The Wizards won 102-93. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, left, shoots against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, April 20, 2014. The Wizards won 102-93. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

All but one of the 'Hawks in the NBA began their postseason with a win this past weekend, when Pierce (15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and Chicago's Kirk Hinrich (16 points, 2 assists) stood out with the best individual performances.

Despite a productive night for the Bulls veteran guard (7-for-16, shot chart below), Hinrich was the odd man out among KU products, as Chicago fell, 102-93, to the Wizards Sunday night.

Chicago's Kirk Hinrich hit 7 of his 16 shots in Game 1 against Washington — a 102-93 Wizards victory.

Chicago's Kirk Hinrich hit 7 of his 16 shots in Game 1 against Washington — a 102-93 Wizards victory.

Drew Gooden only played three minutes for Washington and didn't take a shot, but his team prevailed at Chicago. Mario Chalmers had seven points in Miami's win against Charlotte, Thomas Robinson scored three in an overtime Portland victory at Houston and Nick Collison had three points and five rebounds in Oklahoma City's Saturday win against Memphis.


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Jayhawks in the Playoffs guide

Congratulations. You survived the 82-game NBA regular season.

Well, even if you didn't, personally, six former Kansas University basketball players did. (Actually, if you want to get technical about it, one of those KU products was a free agent until February. But, hey, now he's in the playoffs.)

It's all right if you weren't checking the box scores every day or watching game highlights every morning on YouTube. Even if you paid absolutely no attention to the NBA from the last week of October to right now, it shouldn't be too difficult to get caught up with the playoff-bound former Jayhawks in our guide to the postseason.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 2 Miami vs. No. 7 Charlotte

Mario Chalmers

Season stats: 9.8 points | 2.9 rebounds | 4.9 assists | 45.4% FGs | 38.5% 3-pointers

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) drives on Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker during the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo.

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) drives on Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker during the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo.

You might want to sit down for this. As hard as it is to believe, the following statement is true. The two-time defending champion Miami Heat — you know, the team that has LeBron James — swept the Charlotte Bobcats in the regular season. Shocking, I know.

Interestingly enough, though, Miami only beat Charlotte by a point back on Dec. 1. Mario Chalmers scored 12 points and dished six assists in that one, and he averaged 8.3 points, 6.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 block against the Bobcats in the three games he played against them this season.

Chalmers only made 37.5% of his shots — almost a full eight points below his season field goal percentage of 45.5% — against Charlotte. But he found other ways to disrupt the Bobcats' defense.

As the good folks at stats.nba.com broke it down for us, Chalmers asserted himself on offense, looking to drive almost any time Charlotte's Kemba Walker tried to guard him: 13 drives in nearly 16 minutes of matching up with Walker. The former KU star drove past Ramon Sessions a few times, too — four drives in 5:16.

Of course, Chalmers is known more for his defense, and Walker (three drives in 12:06) and Sessions (one drive in 5:07) didn't have nearly as much success attacking him off the bounce.

This series, which figures to be a short one, begins Sunday at Miami.

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No. 3 Toronto vs. No. 6 Brooklyn

Paul Pierce

Season stats: 13.5 points | 4.6 rebounds | 2.4 assists | 45.1% FGs | 37.3% 3-pointers

Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) defends Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the first half of their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) defends Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the first half of their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The NBA Playoffs are nothing new for Paul Pierce, who has played in 136 games in 10 postseason appearances.

Pierce, who averages 20.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his postseason career, helped Boston qualify for the playoffs each of the previous six seasons — including a 26-game run to an NBA championship in 2008, when he was named NBA Finals MVP.

This spring, in his 16th NBA season, he'll try to bring that experience to a Brooklyn team that underperformed in November and December, but went 34-17 from January on.

Pierce played well against the Raptors this season, as the Nets split the season series, 2-2. The veteran small forward averaged 19.8 points a game against Toronto — more than he did against any team in the league except Miami (21.3 ppg). Toronto didn't have an answer for "The Truth," who made 56.1% of his shots in four meetings, while adding 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 steals.

He scored his season-high, 33 points, against the Raptors in a one-point Nets home loss on Jan. 27.

Defensively, don't be surprised if Nets coach Jason Kidd opts to use Pierce's size to defend Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry occasionally. In limited time defending Lowry, Pierce held him to 2-of-7 shooting, while Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston had issues bottling up Lowry, Toronto's second-leading scorer (17.9 points a game).

This first-round series, which could go the full seven games, begins early Saturday afternoon.

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No. 4 Chicago vs. No. 5 Washington

Kirk Hinrich

Season stats: 9.1 points | 2.6 rebounds | 3.9 assists | 39.13% FGs | 35.1% 3-pointers

VS.

Drew Gooden

Season stats: 8.3 points | 5.2 rebounds | 53.1% FGs | 41.2% 3-pointers [22 games]

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) eyes Washington Wizards point guard John Wall during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. The Wizards won 96-93. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) eyes Washington Wizards point guard John Wall during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. The Wizards won 96-93. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Of the eight first-round playoffs series, this is the only one in which two former Jayhawks will go head-to-head.

Hinrich and Gooden helped lead Kansas to a Final Four in 2002, and now they'll try to knock each other out of the postseason as role players.

The Bulls and Wizards only faced each other three times this season, and Washington won twice. However, the Wizards' second victory, a three-point win on Jan. 17, came right around the time Chicago began turning into one of the better teams in The Association. The Bulls are 25-12 since February, and beat Washington, 96-78, in D.C. just two weeks ago.

Hinrich, seen above flashing some wizardry of his own, averaged 12.3 points, 6.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds against Washington this season.

He'll spend a lot of this series matched up with one of the most entertaining and athletic young guards in the league, John Wall.

The 11th-year KU product held his own against Wall this season. Hinrich made 54% of his shots when guarded by Wall, while the budding D.C. superstar only converted 35% of his attempts against Hinrich.

Washington Wizards' Drew Gooden (90) dunks as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) and Al Jefferson (25) watch during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, March 31, 2014. The Bobcats won 100-94. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Washington Wizards' Drew Gooden (90) dunks as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) and Al Jefferson (25) watch during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, March 31, 2014. The Bobcats won 100-94. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Gooden could be the ultimate X-factor in this series. Because Washington picked him up as a free agent late in the season, the bearded power forward only played against Chicago once.

Earlier this month, the backup big man scored four points on 2-for-5 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 22 minutes in Washington's home loss to the Bulls.

However, that's the only time in eight April games in which Gooden played more than 20 minutes. In fact, Washington coach Randy Wittman didn't play Gooden at all in two of the past four games.

By no coincidence, that drop-off in playing time coincided with the return of power forward Nene to D.C.'s lineup. But if Wittman wants to throw Chicago a curve ball, Gooden would gladly oblige and provide points and boards off the bench.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 2 Oklahoma City vs. No. 7 Memphis

Nick Collison

Season stats: 4.2 points | 3.6 rebounds | 1.3 assists | 55.6% FGs | 16.7 minutes

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) goes to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward Ed Davis (32) and center Marc Gasol (33), of Spain, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) goes to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward Ed Davis (32) and center Marc Gasol (33), of Spain, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

The Thunder won the season series with Memphis, 3-1, but backup power forward Nick Collison didn't have a lot to do with OKC's success.

Limited to 15.3 minutes a game versus the Grizzlies, Collison hit 43% of his shots and only scored 2.5 points a game, but chipped in with 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 block.

Still, expect Collison to contribute off the bench. In-depth statistics show he is one member of the Thunder's front court who is able to limit hefty Zach Randolph's productivity on the offensive glass.

The series begins Saturday night at Oklahoma City.

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No. 4 Houston vs. No. 7 Portland

Thomas Robinson

Season stats: 4.8 points | 4.4 rebounds | 48.1% FGs | 12.5 minutes

Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) drives to the basket past Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard (12) and Jeremy Lin (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) drives to the basket past Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard (12) and Jeremy Lin (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Houston beat Portland three out of four times in the regular season, but you couldn't blame Thomas Robinson for the Trail Blazers' struggles.

The second-year power forward barely got on the floor against his former team this season. A Portland reserve, Robinson averaged single-digit minutes against six teams this season, and Houston was one of them. The athletic 6-10 backup logged just 9.5 minutes versus the Rockets, scoring 2.3 points on 2-for-8 total shooting, while averaging 2.5 rebounds in limited action.

The two teams haven't met since March 9, and Robinson's minutes have been right at 14.3 a game in March and April, so he very well could play a bigger role in the playoffs after going scoreless in 11 minutes in a 118-113 Portland loss at Houston more than five weeks ago.

But that will be up to Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, and will be based upon how he thinks Robinson matches up with Rockets big men Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Omer Asik.

Even if Stotts tightens his rotation for the postseason, Robinson should be a part of the game plan off the bench.

A highly anticipated series, this one begins Sunday night in Houston.

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