Somehow, some way, the “0.4" shot is no longer the most memorable of Derek Fisher’s career.
In fact, it might be a distant third place.
Fisher made two game-turning three-pointers, one in the final minute of regulation and another in the final minute of overtime Thursday as the Lakers held off the Orlando Magic, 99-91, to win Game 4 of the NBA Finals and move to within a victory of the franchise’s 15th championship.
The Lakers lead the Magic, 3-1, with Game 5 on Sunday, also in Orlando.
Games 6 and 7 would be at Staples Center, if necessary, though it doesn’t look good for the Magic.
No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals. Furthermore, the Lakers have not lost three straight games since Pau Gasol was acquired in February 2008.
Fisher had already secured a spot in Lakers playoff lore because of his turnaround fling with 0.4 seconds left against San Antonio in the 2004 conference semifinals.
He was twice as good against the Magic.
The Lakers trailed, 87-84, when Orlando center Dwight Howard missed two free throws with 11.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
After a timeout, the Lakers took the ball out in their own end, Trevor Ariza inbounding to Kobe Bryant, who passed the ball back to Ariza, who found Fisher open across the court.
Fisher dribbled twice toward the arc and lofted a 26-foot three-pointer over Jameer Nelson with 4.6 seconds left in regulation.
He had missed all five of his three-point attempts up to that point.
And he wasn’t done.
With the score tied at 91-91 in overtime, Fisher drilled a 27-foot three-pointer from the top of the arc after a feed from Bryant with 31.3 seconds left.
Fisher kept backpedaling all the way downcourt, his left palm still in the air, a smile slowly crossing his face.
A timeout was called, and teammates ran over to greet him.
Fisher joked that his three-pointers were “maybe 100, 101, something like that” on his list of game-winning shots.
Then he got serious.
“It’s at the top,” he said. “Even greater than 0.4 because I feel like we’re as close as possible to what our goal is.”
True to his nature, Fisher was in the locker room after the game, reminding teammates that the Indiana Pacers responded to a 3-1 deficit in the 2000 Finals by pummeling the Lakers in Game 5 in Indiana, 120-87. The Lakers, of course, wrapped up the championship in Game 6 at Staples, but Fisher’s reminder wasn’t lost on his teammates.
“You have to say to yourself, you have to try to hold on to the excitement as much as you can and just prepare,” Bryant said. “Prepare, prepare, prepare and get ready to go.”
Fisher finished with 12 points in 42 minutes. Bryant had 32 points on 11-for-31 shooting. Ariza had 16 points after going scoreless in the first half.
Howard had 16 points, 21 rebounds and a Finals-record nine blocked shots, but his missed free throws in the final seconds of the fourth quarter were costly.
“We can’t hang our heads,” he said. “We still believe.”
So did Fisher, the 13-year veteran who has been a leader in the locker room but also a lightning rod for criticism from Lakers fans throughout the playoffs. He was shooting 27.1% from three-point range coming into Game 4.
The Lakers trailed, 87-82, on Hedo Turkoglu’s 12-foot runner with 1:34 left in the fourth quarter, but Pau Gasol’s dunk brought the Lakers to within 87-84 with 31.9 seconds left in regulation.
Then came Howard’s misses and Fisher’s first big shot.
“I have a responsibility to my team that if I’m going to be on the floor, then I have to make a difference,” he said.
Then came his second big shot, followed by his smile.
“You know, I just sensed that was the dagger,” he said.
It looked as if the Lakers would be the ones in trouble after shooting an abysmal 33.3% in the first half. They trailed at halftime, 49-37.
Ariza missed all six of his shots, though he scored 13 points in the third quarter as the Lakers emerged with a 67-63 lead.
There were even fiery moments between the teams’ top players.
Bryant stole the ball from Howard, was immediately fouled by Howard, and then swung an elbow at the Orlando center. The two talked animatedly as they walked down to the other end, where Bryant made two free throws.
Those fireworks were nothing compared to what Fisher had in store for the game.
“That’s Derek,” said Bryant, also a 13-year veteran. “He just has supreme confidence.”
BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX
The Lakers have bounced back from every loss in the playoffs:
Game 3: at Utah 88, Lakers 86
Game 4: Lakers 108, at Utah 94
Game 1: Houston 100, at Lakers 92
Game 2: at Lakers 111, Houston 98
Game 4: at Houston 99, Lakers 87
Game 5: at Lakers 118, Houston 78
Game 6: at Houston 95, Lakers 80
Game 7: at Lakers 89, Houston 70
Game 2: Denver 106, at Lakers 103
Game 3: Lakers 103, at Denver 97
Game 4: at Denver 120, Lakers 101
Game 5: at Lakers 103, Denver 94
Game 3: at Orlando 108, Lakers 104
Game 4: Lakers 99, at Orlando 91, OT
Source: Los Angeles Times