Derek Fisher's emotional night resonates with the team
It's been a season filled with criticism about his shooting numbers. Fisher ended the regular season averaging 7.5 points per game on a 38% mark from the field, the lowest output since his 2003-04 season. It's been a season filled with doubt about his defense. Though he displayed a valiant effort, Fisher largely struggled in defending quick, young point guards, even prompting Kobe Bryant to defend Russell Westbrook in the Lakers' first-round match-up against Oklahoma City. And it's been a season filled with conjecturing about his age. Fisher is 35 and must have wondered himself, as he has gone through his 14th regular season, whether the Lakers value his experience and abilities as a clutch player enough to re-sign him once he becomes a free agent this off-season.
But on a night when he helped limit Boston forward Ray Allen to a zero-of-13 clip, scored 11 fourth-quarter points and made a coast-to-coast layup that would further add to his legacy, Fisher couldn't help but share how much the game meant to him.
Fisher would later say "the emotion was just from being a part of such a big night and being so instrumental in helping our team win this game." And the team still felt the effects of Fisher's contribution from Game 3.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum said the win and Fisher’s performance had brought the team even closer together, despite its having come after allowing a 17-point lead against the Celtics to dwindle because of stagnant offense.
Lakers forward Lamar Odom had a hug for Fisher right after the game. "I learn so much from him," he said. "When he speaks and when he doesn't speak and the way he carries himself. He's a man."
And Lakers guard Kobe Bryant remarked that Fisher was the only teammate he truly listened to, adding that he admired the "toughness" Fisher brought everyday to the court.
"It's not unusual for players that have played together for a long duration of time and come through a variety of situations in the course of their careers” to develop a close relationship, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson opined, "especially when you have winning and positive results."
Ron Artest said he admired Fisher's willingness to play a complementary role to benefit the team and that it had prompted him to follow suit. "Fisher and Kobe are taking me on a ride and they're taking me to school," he said. "They give me a lesson every day."For the team, Fisher's positive reinforcement contrasts with Bryant's fiery personality and demanding expectations -- Fisher said Bryant had likened the duo's contrast to that of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
But on a night where his coast-to-coast layup brought back reflections of his other clutch efforts, Fisher refused to bask in them. He doesn't even like to think of his game-winning shot with 0.4 of a second left against San Antonio in the 2004 West Semifinals.
"Only winning it will cement that and solidify" his clutch play as one of those that he'll want to remember, Fisher said. " '04 I don't really think about a lot until other people ask me about it because it's connected to losing a championship. So I kind of put that away."
-- Mark Medina, in Boston
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Photo: Lakers guard Derek Fisher, left, gets off a shot after driving past Boston guard Paul Pierce during the Lakers' 91-84 victory in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times