History Falls in Place With Fisher

Paul Westphal, coach of the Pepperdine basketball team and a former NBA all-star and coach of the Phoenix Suns and Seattle SuperSonics, will analyze the NBA Finals for The Times, as told to Steve Henson

I think it would have been a great series. The Lakers really would have been pushed.

The 76ers? Forget them.

There was plenty of time to daydream watching the Lakers close out the series, and my thoughts went back to the Boston Celtics with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. The Lakers with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy. The Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

How do these Lakers stack up?

I think they would have beaten the Bulls because of Shaquille O'Neal. You have to have great strength in the middle against the Lakers or forget about it.

I'm not sure they would have beaten the the Bird-led Celtics or the Abdul-Jabbar-led Lakers. And the Wilt Chamberlain- and Jerry West-led Lakers, that would have been a real interesting matchup.

Enough daydreaming. Derek Fisher was the dose of reality the Philadelphia 76ers couldn't handle.

There were two Laker teams this season--before Fisher returned from his injury and after. This game showed it again. As great as O'Neal and Kobe Bryant are, the Lakers could not put together this kind of run until Fisher joined them.

They may not have won Friday night without him. He makes that much of a difference. Fisher is a guy who can score without demanding any plays run for him. If only his headband fit as well as he does into the Laker scheme.

He's a point guard, but that doesn't matter because of the way the Lakers are structured. O'Neal gets the ball as the first option and Bryant as the second, everybody knows that. So the rest of the guys, regardless of their position, have to know how to play off those two, how to be aggressive without being pigs.

Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Brian Shaw and Horace Grant had their moments. But they couldn't figure it out until Fisher joined them.

In Game 1, Fisher hardly played because Plan A was for Bryant to guard Allen Iverson and Plan B was for Tyronn Lue to do so. Fisher was lost in the shuffle.

From that point on, we didn't see Fisher on the bench much. He guarded Iverson well and made big shot after big shot.

I felt for 76er Coach Larry Brown. He knew it was an uphill battle and that the Lakers had a better team. But that doesn't mean he went into the game thinking it was futile. He would never let himself believe that even though we all knew it.

Philadelphia held up well for being as hobbled as they were. But let's face it, the Lakers deserve the credit. They swept through the playoffs as if they were a series of exhibition games.

As for the Xs and O's, the Lakers made them look as easy as Tic-Tac-Toe. And next year they should make it three in a row.

Some of the pieces will change because of retirement and the salary cap. But as long as they keep a nucleus of Bryant and O'Neal--and let's not forget Fisher--Phil Jackson will catch Red Auerbach as the coach with the most championships.

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