Lakers benefit from defense and D-Fish
Reporting from Boston -- Twelve hours had passed since Derek Fisher reinvigorated a franchise with nine minutes he’ll remember forever, but the Lakers were back at work Wednesday, treading somewhere between cautious and confident, knowing the Boston Celtics weren’t done yet but definitely feeling the sting of a defense that continued to govern the NBA Finals.
The Lakers met for a brief practice on what happened to be the 25th anniversary of their first championship victory over the Celtics, a time that will eternally live in the eyes of the organization.
To get there again, the Lakers could take their chances on getting more 11-point fourth quarters out of Fisher, who continued to save his best for the Finals, or they could employ the kind of defense that got them a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven series that continues Thursday in Boston.
Rajon Rondo was clearly outplayed by Fisher in Game 3. Paul Pierce continued to struggle, now shooting 36.1% in the Finals. And Ray Allen had few clean looks in Game 3 on the way to an 0-for-13 shooting effort that was one miss from tying the record for futility in a Finals game.
The Lakers won 25 years ago with the glitzy, scoreboard-defying " Showtime” team. Now they’re winning with a shot-blocking, harassing, boxing-out team.
“We did a great job,” Kobe Bryant said Wednesday. “We got back in transition, we contested shots, we limited them to one shot. Overall, I was very pleased with it.”
But not everybody has been so supportive of their effort, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers taking aim at the central character of Game 3 by saying of Fisher that “besides flopping, he doesn’t do a lot extra.”
Rivers made the remarks after Fisher spoke to the media, the 14-year veteran reflecting on his own place on the Lakers’ playoff pole.
It’s easily forgotten that Bryant’s not the only one chasing Michael Jordan’s six championship rings. Fisher and Bryant, linked as Lakers for 11 years and four championships, are in it together, pushing for a fifth.
Last year in the Finals against the Orlando Magic, Fisher hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation and again in overtime to give the Lakers an all-important Game 4 victory.
He tried to spark them six years ago, hitting his legendary “0.4" turnaround buzzer-beater against San Antonio in the conference semifinals. But the Lakers lost to Detroit in the Finals a month later.
He said his coast-to-coast layup Tuesday in Game 3, which ended with a kiss off the glass and a fall on his bottom after three Celtics could only get a piece of Fisher, not the ball, was more important than anything he’d ever done on a basketball court.
“I mean, yeah,” he said Wednesday before delivering a line that led to laughter from a gathering of reporters. “It was more painful, that’s for sure.
“Making the shot at the end [Tuesday] night in the Finals I think means more than that [0.4] shot. But here we are again with an opportunity to win a championship.”
Fisher was also credited with being an on-court leader Tuesday amid the chaos of a onetime 17-point lead whittled down to one.
“Fourth quarter he gave one of those speeches about us being in a really good position … just told everybody, ‘Take your time and play hard and make plays,’” forward Lamar Odom said.
On the injury front, Andrew Bynum put away some doubts he created after Game 3 when he said he would be “questionable” for Game 4 after aggravating a right knee injury. He upgraded his status, saying he will play Thursday.
“I’m good, man,” he said as he walked to the team bus in a thin, dimly lighted corridor. “This close to the championship, I’ve got to play.”
Bynum underwent two hours of treatment that included ice, heat, electro-stimulation and massage on a swollen knee that has bothered him since he sustained torn cartilage April 30.
He said his knee locked after he blocked a shot by Celtics center Kendrick Perkins in the third quarter of Game 3. When that happens, the cartilage gets “pinched” and causes pain for four or five minutes, he said. The swelling he experienced Tuesday night was gone by Wednesday afternoon.
“He’s been able to overcome those odds almost all the way through these playoffs,” Phil Jackson said.
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