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Derek Fisher makes game-defining play in Lakers' 92-89 victory over Denver Nuggets

December 31, 2011 |  7:55 pm

The Lakers trailed by two, and when Kobe Bryant doesn't have the ball there's usually one other teammate perfect to have it.

Derek Fisher.

He's hit these shots numerous times in his 16-year career and in nearly every circumstances. Fisher nailed it even with only .04 of a second left (2004 Western Conference Finals against the Spurs). He converted on a drive even when players mauled him at the basket. (2010 NBA Finals against Boston). Fisher sank a shot when his opponent gave him way too much to operate (2009 NBA Finals).

This time, Fisher's shot didn't go in yet it still provided another mark in his storied history as a clutch performer. His three-pointer at the end of the 24-second shot clock rimmed out, but FIsher dove all the way to other side of the court. He slid between Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, grabbed the ball and immediately called timeout with 2:29 remaining.

It marked what Coach Mike Brown said became "probably the most key play of the game" in the Lakers' 92-89 victory Saturday over the Denver Nuggets. That's because the Lakers remained tied with Denver at 89-89, and set the tone for what would transpire next. 

Andrew Bynum's alley-oop lob that represented part of his 29 points and gave the Lakers' a 91-89 lead with 1:52 left.Steve Blake chased down Danilo Gallinari that prevented him from making a game-tying layup. The Lakers closed out enough that Denver forwarrd Al Harrington hardly had a good look in his missed a game-tying three-pointer before time expired. 

"That's Derek," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "That's how you win championships by making plays like that." 

It's also how Fisher maintained longevity and ensured his 500th consecutive start.

"A hustle play in a lot of ways symbolized who I was coming into this league, who i've tried to be my 16 years in and probably what I'll be remembered as going out," Fisher said. "I was a guy who was willing to do whatever it takes for his team to win. It doesn't look great all the time. But I won't be as big of a name. But I'll always find a way to help my team in more times than not."

Fisher's game-changing play coincides with his career facing yet another set of challenges. He's no longer in Phil Jackson's triangle offense. The Lakers already tried nudging him out of the starting lineup by acquiring Chris Paul. And Fisher admittedly entered training camp out of shape, as his role as National Basketball Players Assn. President during the league lockout disrupted his offseason training. 

Gloss over Fisher's modest stat line at six points on three of seven shooting, five assists and six fouls. Roll your eyes all you want at Fisher's contention that he "loves" Brown's traditional offense and actually prefers it over Jackson's triangle because it allows him to facilitate and score more. Take Mike Brown's unsolicited defense over the continous criticism Fisher faces in defending point guards as nothing more than obligatory.

But Fisher reveals his character and dedication to his craft by managing to make such a seemingly impossible play only two weeks after having to sit out of the first preseason game to catch up on his conditioning.

"At 37, it just takes longer to recover than it does for a 27 year old," Fisher said. "But that doesn't mean you can't do a lot of the same things. For me I just want to be smart."

And that involves making plays, such as grabbing a loose ball, that set up a victory. 


Derek Fisher still slowed by limited off-season workouts

Derek Fisher points to off-seasons off the court as key to his longevity

Derek Fisher's starting role comes at different circumstances

 --Mark Medina

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