His stellar night in a hostile atmosphere indelibly was a spectacular display, assuming to revoke the memories of an uninspiring defeat a few nights ago. For the first time in 11 years, it was a portrait of an invaluable swingman to the greatest closer in the game, Kobe Bryant.
Seems the populace eventually would have figured that Derek Fisher is as brilliant and sumptuous in finishing and delivering in a crucial final's game as is Bryant. It’s almost mockery when basketball lords forget about Fisher, a veteran guard dismissed as an old and inactive competitor on the roster. He’s proudly still known for his customary clutch, game-winners and differences as time dwindles in regulation.
Each summer, in a town that sadly may wave goodbye if he decides not to return next season, endears an inspirational leader who has been fortunate to win four championships, all with a dynasty as part of the Lakers. Eventually, he’ll call it quits, but in the late years of a wonderful career, he’s amongst a reclamation period, still the inspirational and spiritual supporter on a unified core. For one night, he wasn’t old or sluggish, but an imperative savior in the Lakers 91-84 win to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
For one night, he declared fame and wasn’t lambasted because of his age and stagnant demeanor, but brought back memories of his thrilling buzzer-beater with 0.4 seconds in San Antonio years ago and his two three-pointers that stole Game Four from Orlando last summer.
The stunning night of Bryant’s porous shooting inspired Fisher to balloon as a perennial star, dauntlessly stealing the game as time dwindled and scored 11 fourth-quarter points by pushing the tempo and advancing the ball in transition.
It happened so rapidly in a series, that the Lakers suddenly controlled in the absence of Bryant, who usually fires at ease in the final minutes to close out in a winnable fashion and went scoreless in the first 10 minutes of the fourth.
Thank goodness Fisher, the 35-year-old legitimized the personality in the series and shifted the complexion on a night when Bryant shot 10 for 29 from the field. The raucous crowd at TD Garden quietened down, and painfully watched as stunned spectators took for granted that Fisher was too slow and old in controlling the momentum.
But he fooled all the weeping spectators, who sadly watched it all deteriorate at home. His sterling heroics are becoming an annual ritual, failing to recognize that he still has the swagger and accuracy shooting the ball. And years later, he’s still savvy and proficient in a game he truly zests, with difficulties defending the explosive and quicker guards.
There were numerous moments Tuesday night when he pushed the ball and executed as the aggressor, silencing all critics about his aging and slowness. Of course, he’s a veteran with not enough quickness or energy to out-duel a younger guard, but he showed that he can prevail and finish on substantial possessions.
“He has been criticized quite a bit because of his age,” Bryant said, “Which is why it’s a huge thrill for him and all of us that he comes through in those moments."
“Truthfully, he has done it over and over again for us. I’m just assuming that it’s his responsibility to our team to do these things. That was just Derek being Derek. He never ceases to amaze me.”
For the first time in these Finals, he wasn’t hearing the chatter about how he’ll be outmatched by Boston’s guard Rajon Rondo. By virtue, he proved resilient in his best game in the finals with an average of 7.5 points on 5-of-18 shooting, and was dismantled in a one-on-one showdown against Rondo, who posted a triple-double in a 103-94 win in Game 2.
His brilliance to race down the floor benefited, after he grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled like a veteran point guard and accelerated quickly past a lethargic Celtics defense that unfolded in a layup and three-point play because he was unwisely fouled. More mind-blowing is that Rondo, the speedy guard with uncontrollable agility, failed to contest and defend a wide-open Fisher. It’s very puzzling that the Celtics would leave a savvy guard alone, given his history of finishing and prevailing late in the closing moments.
“He pretty much won the game,” said Rondo. “When we made our run, he seemed to have answers every time.”
I’m sure Paul Pierce will think carefully before he guarantees a win. This time, Ray Allen horribly missed shots on a frigid shooting night, coming off a record-setting evening in L.A. when he drilled eight three-pointers in a final's game.
There wasn’t an encore following an incredible shooting display, previously scoring 25 points in Los Angeles a few nights ago, but went 0-for-13 in front of the home crowd and struggled mightily after missing an array of shots.
Doc Rivers, the Celtics coach who whines and cries over poor officiating, blamed the refs much of the night, refusing to acknowledge that Allen and Pierce shot a combined 5 of 25, but divulged that Fisher was the factor in the game.
“Fisher won the game for them,” he said.
It was a must-needed win and a vintage Fisher reinforced the Lakers with his firepower, perception and zest in the sport he has devoted much of his life in, willing to play the game with heart and bravery. For once, he showed why he has four championship rings.
For once, he verified why he’s famously known for his heroics in prior history. For once, he validated why he’s always worshipped for the glorious moments in basketball. With much emotion, he was overjoyed and dripped tears during his brief conversation with ABC sideline reporter Doris Burke.
“I’m sorry to get emotional,” he said.
On this night, he owes no apologizes.