Fisher hooks up Lakers with win
Los Angeles inches closer to NBA title
ORLANDO, Fla. - Lakers coach Phil Jackson is now a victory away from being ahead of Red.
The Lakers moved closer to their fourth NBA title this decade by defeating the Magic, 99-91, in overtime in Game 4 of the Finals last night at Amway Arena. Los Angeles leads the best-of-seven series, 3-1, with Game 5 here Sunday. Jackson is currently tied with Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach for the most NBA titles by a coach with nine.
"Every championship is so dramatic and so hard-earned that each one singly stands out," Jackson said. "But a multitude, two handfuls, is ridiculous. I know that. That would be something.
"We really don't want to talk about that because I was just in [the locker room] reminding these guys of the 2000 championship, when we had a 3-1 lead and Indiana came back and trounced us in the fifth game of the series. And [the Magic] are just a proud team. They don't get this far unless they're a [great] team, so we have to be very pleased."
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 32 points and added eight assists and seven rebounds, and Hedo Turkoglu scored a team-high 25 points for the Magic. Lakers guard Derek Fisher nailed a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, and hit another big trey in the final minute of the extra session.
Magic center Dwight Howard added 16 points, a game-high 21 rebounds, and a Finals-record nine blocks. But with 11.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Orlando ahead, 87-84, he missed two free throws that could have sealed the win and tied the series. He finished with seven turnovers.
"It's a tough loss, man. We had it, but it just kind of slipped away because of stupidness," Turkoglu said. "We can't be really down on ourselves, no matter what. Win or lose tonight, we have to win the game on Sunday."
"Very somber afterwards," coach Stan Van Gundy said of the mood in the Magic's locker room. "I mean, obviously everyone was very, very disappointed. The emotions are very raw. I didn't say much of anything afterward."
Orlando finished the first half with a 49-37 lead. After going scoreless on six first-half shots, Trevor Ariza sparked the Lakers. He scored 13 of his 16 points in the third quarter on 5-of-6 shooting to push Los Angeles ahead, 67-63. The Lakers outscored the Magic, 30-14, in the third.
"Whatever I can do to help my team win, I'm going to do," Ariza said.
Ariza's prayer of a 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer tied the game at 82 with 2:36 left in the fourth quarter. But Turkoglu followed with a trey and a 12-foot runner to push Orlando up, 87-82, with 1:34 left. With 31.9 seconds left in regulation, Gasol's dunk off a behind-the-back pass from Bryant brought the Lakers within 87-84.
With 11.1 seconds left, Howard was fouled by Bryant, but failed to put the game away.
"I just missed them," said Howard, who clanked 8 of 14 free throws. "I've been working on my free throws. They just weren't falling tonight. There is no reason to get down on myself."
The Lakers then got the ball to Fisher, was 0 for 5 to that point from 3-point range. But the veteran guard nailed a well-contested three with 4.6 seconds left to tie it.
"We've always said that character has to be in players if they want to be great players," Jackson said. "You can't just draft it. It's not just about talent, it's about character, and he's a person of high character, brings that to play, not only in just his gamesmanship but also his intestinal fortitude."
Fisher, who called it the biggest shot of a career full of big shots, said, "I wanted to make sure I stayed in the right place knowing that overtime was in front of us."
Back at the free throw line with 1:27 remaining in OT, Howard made 1 of 2 to tie the game at 91. But Fisher hit another huge 3-pointer with 31.3 seconds left to give the Lakers a 94-91 lead.
"I just sensed that was a dagger, that was the one to put us in the position to close out the game even though it wasn't over," said Fisher.
After a missed 3-pointer by Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis tipped the ball toward center court in the hopes of getting it to a teammate for 3-point try. But instead Gasol raced downcourt for a dunk with 21.6 seconds left to seal the victory.
"You have to stay focused," Bryant said. "You have to say to yourself, 'Hold in your excitement and prepare, prepare, prepare.' "
Said Howard, "We know the position we're in, but we're not going to stop fighting."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org