x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Fisher's heroics lift Lakers to brink of title

Derek Fisher shoots two long-range three pointers in normal and overtime to snatch Game Four of the finals for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Derek Fisher scrambles for the ball with Orlando's Jameer Nelson during the LA Lakers' 99-91 victory.
Derek Fisher scrambles for the ball with Orlando's Jameer Nelson during the LA Lakers' 99-91 victory.

ORLANDO // It was rewind the clock night at Orlando's Amway Arena. The Los Angeles Lakers walked off with a 99-91 victory in overtime, led by their elder statesman Derek Fisher on Thursday. Showing form reminiscent of his performances in years gone by, Fisher hit a three-point shot to put the Lakers ahead for good with 31.3secs to play in the extra period. Pau Gasol, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, sealed the victory when he picked up a loose ball and swooped in for the dunk and the foul as time wound down. The victory puts the Lakers 3-1 up in the best-of-seven series and within touching distance of the NBA championship. While Kobe Bryant scored 32 points to lead the way for the Lakers, it was Fisher's 12 points and intestinal fortitude that decided the game. After having missed his first five attempts from beyond the arc, Fisher sent the game into overtime by hitting a three-point shot and then sealed the victory with his second three-pointer. "Those shots rank at the top of what I have done in my career. Playing with this group of guys, it ranks right up there at the top," said Fisher. "I have a responsibility to my team that if I'm going to be on the floor, then I have to make a difference. None of us can continue at times to just expect that Kobe is going to save us. "I felt bad earlier because Pau was kicking it out to me for some wide-open threes that I was missing and I promised him that I was not going to miss those shots anymore." The teams wrestled back and forth all night. Fittingly, professional wrestling legend Hulk Hogan was in attendance. During a break in play early in the game, the platinum-blond Hogan went to centre court and worked the Orlando faithful into a frenzy. The action on the court was just as frantic from start to finish. Perhaps the greatest dramatics occurred during the final two minutes of regulation. Orlando took the lead on a beautiful step-back three-point shot by Hedo Turkoglu. During the ensuing Lakers possession, Gasol got the ball in the low-post and was decisively rejected by Orlando's Dwight Howard. Turkoglu then got the ball back and hit a runner, putting the Magic up by five. With 11 seconds to go, Howard slipped towards the basket and received the ball only to be dragged to the ground by Bryant. Howard then went to the line and missed both free throws. The Lakers wasted no time in storming back up the court and quickly scored on a Gasol dunk. Another defensive stop later, the Lakers beat Orlando's full-court press and Fisher nailed a three-point shot to tie the game with only 4.6secs remaining. "I am sure you know who the final play was designed for," Fisher said afterwards, "but then the Magic pressed Kobe and the ball ended up in my hands. I didn't catch it cleanly, however as I dribbled once, twice and a third time, I noticed that Magic guard Jameer Nelson was backing up. "It was a split second decision and then I shot the ball." Both teams began to show signs of frustration with one another and the referees. It culminated in the Magic guard Michael Pietrus's savage hit on Gasol in the dying seconds of overtime. That was deemed to be a flagrant foul and will surely face a substantial fine in the days ahead. There were plenty of fouls in the game as the teams combined for 57 free throws. The Lakers shot 15 of 20 and the Magic shot a woeful 22 of 37. Howard had a tough night from the charity stripe, making only six of 14 shots. Before the game Orlando GM Otis Smith said that his team had arrived. They were now among the NBA's elite and while LA boast a roster of talented players, the Magic have shown that they can go toe to toe with anyone in the league. To keep their improbable run alive in this year's play-offs, the Magic will have to win tomorrow night. gdole@thenational.ae