If you didn’t watch the game and only took a look at the box score, nothing about Derek Fisher’s stat line jumps out at you. In 42 minutes, he finished with 12 points, one assist, four rebounds, and two steals. He shot just 5-for-11, including only 2-for-7 from the three-point line.
If you did watch the game and then looked at the stat sheet, one number will jump out at you—the number two, as in two three pointers made. Fisher missed his first five three-point attempts from behind the arc, but as the good veterans do, he did not let it affect him mentally.
He did not let it affect his confidence when he made the two biggest three pointers in his life. One tied the game to eventually send it into overtime. The second came in overtime and essentially won the game for the Lakers, 99-91, to give them a 3-1 series lead.
With those two shots, Derek Fisher cemented his status as a Laker legend.
On the other side, the Orlando Magic will remember that they had a five-point lead with less than one minute left in the game. With 11 seconds left to play, the Magic maintained a three-point lead, and their superstar center Dwight Howard stepped to the free throw line needing to make just one of two attempts to make it a two possession game and essentially seal the deal.
Unfortunately for Magic fans, the ghost of Nick Anderson reared his ugly head, as Howard missed both free throws, giving the Lakers life, which was all their veteran-laden team would need. Just like the Lakesr fans will remember the number two for what Fisher did, Magic fans will remember that same number for what Howard did not.
In fairness to Howard, it was not all his fault. Some other things that I will remember are Hedo Turkoglu missing three of four free throws in two trips to the line late in the fourth quarter.
I will also remember Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson having a mental breakdown by positioning himself defensively inside the three-point line. That mistake allowed Fisher to step up in rhythm and make the first of two shots that will go down in Laker lore.
History shows that essentially this series is over. No team has ever rebounded from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. For the Magic, they will never see a better opportunity than the one they saw Thursday night. Kobe Bryant had another poor shooting performance, hitting on just 11-of-31 shots finishing with 32 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists.Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom were all in foul trouble for much of the night. The three were on the bench at the same time during a second quarter that saw Orlando take a 12-point lead at halftime.
When was the last time that you saw both DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell on the court at the same time playing crucial minutes? Right around never.
Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said in the postgame press conference that he didn’t think that experience had anything to do with what happened in Game Four. I disagree. Starting the second half, Orlando had all the momentum with a lead and a crazy crowd that was giving them life.
At this point, experience played a big part in what occurred in the second half. The Lakers opened the third quarter on a 18-5 run over the first six minutes to take a one point lead.
Trevor Ariza led the attack by scoring 11 points in that span and finished with 13 points in the third quarter. The Lakers would outscore the Magic 30-14 in the third quarter turning a 12-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead through three.
Experience contributed to what happened down the stretch in the fourth quarter. The Lakers were calm, cool, collected, and it showed in their execution. Orlando looked rattled, contributing to their inability to take care of the ball and hit shots from the free-throw line. The Magic shot just 59.5 percent as a team from the charity stripe and turned the ball over 17 times.
The only questions that remain now are, “Can the Magic rebound mentally from blowing a golden opportunity to even things up and send the series back to Los Angeles?” and “Do the Lakers smell blood in the water and go in for the kill?”
Sunday night, we’ll have our answer.