04/25/2011 - 17:40
Derek Speaks Up to Lift LA
Derek Fisher's inspired speeches to his teammates over the past few seasons have been just as important as the big time shots he has made.
On Friday night with the Lakers trying to combat a raucous New Orleans crowd in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals and in need of a boost, Fish spoke up yet again. Mark Medina of the LA Times documented the dialogue:
"With everyone circled around him and granting full attention, Lakers guard Derek Fisher swiftly moved his hands and delivered an impassioned speech.
The bullet points from his discussion during a timeout Friday night covered typical items that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant ticked off to ESPN sideline reporter Heather Cox, saying, "He talked about execution and minimizing mistakes and playing with the type of intensity and sense of urgency we know how to play with."
But this time, No. 2 was also coming to the defense of one of his teammates, Pau Gasol, who had been the subject of outside criticism for a poor start to the series. Lamar Odom recounted Derek's message:
"We ride with [Pau], all the way. We let him know that as a team today, as matter of fact. Derek came to the bench and was like, 'All say, "Aye," to when Pau gets the ball, he can do what he wants to do -- miss or make,'" Odom said. "We all say, 'Aye,' to let him know, we're going to ride with you."
Derek said he tries to pick the right moment for his speeches and that Friday's was all about encouraging Pau to be more aggressive, as he told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com:
"[I try] to have a feel for when is the right time and how to say it. A lot of times I don't say things, because I want my words to mean something," Derek said. "More than anything, Pau needed to know from us as a group, as far as what we wanted him to do and needed him to do. I just felt like it was important for us to let him know."
Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times wrote of how the speech rallied Gasol and his teammates:
"Yep, that was Derek Fisher gathering the starters near the end of the first quarter in Game 3, demanding continual effort from them during a timeout.
"He's definitely the spokesman for this team as far as leadership goes," [coach Phil] Jackson said. He spent most of the time talking to Gasol, who had only two points in the first quarter.
"My teammates are being supportive because they've seen me struggle shooting the ball and know I'm a little tentative," Gasol said. "They just wanted me to play my game and have the freedom to do whatever I wanted out there because they believe and they trust in my abilities."
Gasol restored order with a 17-point, 10-rebound night, helping the Lakers cruise to a 100-86 win over the Hornets to regain home court advantage and take a 2-1 lead in the series.
"He's one of our leaders," Odom said of Fish. "He gets us riled up. He knows exactly what to say and when to say it. He's a great dude."
It was just another example of Fish delivering for the Lakers, this time with his voice:
"You definitely have to have moments where we remind each other about our purpose and what this is all about, why we're together right now," he told Trudell. "At the same time, as a leader, you also have to recognize when learning things for oneself is just as important. Even when you want to say something, sometimes you just have to let it go and hope that the understanding will be developed from within because that makes everybody stronger."
To see Derek's entire discussion with Lakers.com on his leadership of the Lakers, click here.
Along with his words, D-Fish contributed the first of back-to-back 10-point games in the win, tallying double digits on the scoreboard despite taking just four shots. He was 3-of-4 from the field and 3-of-4 from the free throw line. Fish also contributed five assists over the course of the victory,
No. 2 kicked off the game in high gear, with three dimes in the first quarter and two in the second. Derek then went about scoring his way in the second half, dropping eight of his 10 points in the final 24 minutes.
But perhaps more important than No. 2's offensive output were his defensive duties, again helping the Lakers to limit Hornets point guard Chris Paul in Game 3, as Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register wrote:
"Bryant gave the primary job of guarding Paul back to Derek Fisher, who with the help of more attentiveness and activity from teammates, forced Paul into early turnovers — and the Lakers did not trail after the first 4 1/2 minutes of the game."
Dexter Fishmore of Silver Screen and Roll noted the Lakers also made Paul disappear in the fourth quarter as New Orleans tried to mount a comeback:
Multiple trips went by when Paul didn't touch the rock. He took only one shot in the fourth quarter. And it's worth repeating: he was being guarded by Derek Fisher. Fish did what he could, and had some success forcing Paul into a few turnovers early on, but it's genuinely astonishing that CP3 would just fade out of a game like that, especially one that New Orleans really needed to win.
Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the box score didn't tell the whole story of LA's containment of Paul.
"The stat line will read that Paul finished with 22 points on nine-for-13 shooting, but Fisher and the team's front line should feel satisfied with how they defended him. Though Paul finished with eight assists, the Lakers also forced him to commit five turnovers, a sure sign that Paul had little supporting cast around him."
D-Fish also chipped in three steals on the night.
While Fish was scrapping on the defensive end, the Lakers got back to doing what they do best on the offensive end: going inside.
In fact, of Derek's five assists, two went down low as No. 2 found Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum each in a position to score.
The Lakers big trio of Gasol, Odom and Bynum contributed 44 points in the victory. No. 2 was especially pleased by the performance of Bynum, who also grabbed 11 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games.
"It's not just that he's healthy and out there but it's what he's doing when he is out there," Fish told ESPN LA. "He's performing at an extremely high level and his basketball IQ and his understanding of how he can help us best has just shot through the roof. He deserves all the credit for putting the time and effort into continuing to improve and we're just happy he's on our side."
A BEST OF THREE
Friday's victory sent the Lakers into a Sunday night Game 4 with a chance to seize control of the series and take a 3-1 lead back to LA. But the New Orleans wouldn't go down that easy.
The Hornets came back at the Lakers, winning 93-88 and knotting the Western Conference Quarterfinal series at two games apiece.
Los Angeles got a near identical line from Fish as he dished out on Friday. No. 2 finished with 10 points on 4-of-7 and added two assists. Derek scored six points in the game's second half, including four in the closing minutes to lead a Lakers comeback.
Fish hit a pair of free throws with 3:23 to go, cutting the Lakers deficit to three. Paul answered with two free throws, but Fish scored again moments later, as Mark Medina of the LA Times writes:
After Paul's free throws gave the Hornets an 85-80 advantage, Fisher manned the point. Bryant set a high screen on Paul for Fisher and then rolled out the perimeter. Meanwhile, Fisher drove the lane past Ariza and hit a high-arching left-handed layup, cutting the Hornets lead to 85-82.
LA closed to within two with 8.2 ticks to go when Fish threw a beautiful inbound bounce pass to Gasol in the lane for two to make it 90-88. However, the Hornets hit their free throws down the stretch and were able to stave off the Laker rush to tie the series.
A positive to come out of the game, however, was Derek's defense on Paul. While the New Orleans point guard posted a triple double against LA on Sunday, according to Brian Kamenetzky, he made just 1-of-7 shots when defended by Fish. Kamenetzky writes that Fish isn't necessarily an answer to Paul on the defensive end, but notes that the Lakers team defense is best executed when Fish is the first one in front of Paul, funneling him to the Lakers bigs.
Lamar Odom noted that the Lakers must continue to be aggressive with their defense on Paul:
"A quarterback like that, sometimes you have to change the coverage," Odom said of defending Paul. "Sometimes you have to play man-to-man, sometimes you have to zone him and sometimes you have to blitz him. You've got to pick your poison with him, whether to guard him man-to-man or take the ball out of his hands."
Medina documented one such instance that occurred late in game 4:
After Derek Fisher hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 83-79, the Hornets' Paul hoped to take advantage of his superior quickness on Fisher in the next possession. But it didn't happen. Hornets center Emeka Okafor tried setting a high pick on Fisher, with Pau Gasol ready to switch on Paul. But Fisher fought through the screen and immediately marked on Paul. Okafor set a screen again at the top of the key, but Fisher spun around the screen and stayed in front of Paul.
Once Paul dribbled right, Fisher cut off his penetration and then quickly backed so he wouldn't get beat off the dribble. After Paul dribbled to his left and between the legs, Fisher swiped at the ball. Paul picked up the loose ball, but he had to settle for an off-balance three-pointer that hit off the backboard.
To read Medina's entire informative breakdown of the closing minutes of Game 4, click here.
Though they were hoping to win Game 4, the Lakers return home in control of home court and can push the Hornets to the brink with a win on Tuesday night.
"The reality of it is, we have a Game 5," Derek said. "We have an opportunity to win it and regain control of this series. There are a lot of things that we can control that we can do a lot better. It's all part of the process of being a champion. You're not going to always play your best basketball but you have to figure out a way to win."
Derek said the Lakers have to give the Hornets credit for hanging in and fighting back, but LA must focus on fixing its own mistakes in order to take back control:
"It's always a combination. You have to respect your opponent and tip your hat to them in terms of what they're doing," he said. "But at the same time you have to hold yourself accountable in terms of mistakes and things that we individually and collectively have to do better.
"That's where we are. They're obviously doing some things to put pressure on us in terms of rotations. But those are things we need to do better."
The Lakers will look to improve those areas with Game 5 on the horizon. Tuesday's tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 PT on TNT.
- Lakers 100, Hornets 86 (OC Register, April 22, 2011)
- Lakers' 100-86 victory over New Orleans Hornets showed playoff form (LA Times, April 23, 2011)
- Hopes of Lakers rise and fall with Andrew Bynum — literally (Los Angeles Times, April 23, 2011)
- Pau Gasol finds his game (ESPN LA, April 23, 2011)
- Andrew Bynum's brace holds up (ESPN LA, April 23, 2011)
- Lakers swat Hornets, take a 2-1 series lead (OC Register, April 23, 2011)
- Lakers 100, Hornets 86: Big Easy (Silver Screen and Roll, April 22, 2011)
- Dissecting the final moments of the Lakers' 93-88 Game 4 loss (LA Times, April 25, 2011)
- More fun with Game 4 numbers (ESPN LA, April 25, 2011)
- 1-on-1: Derek Fisher (Lakers.com, April 23, 2011)
- Derek Fisher say there is no surprise in these playoffs (Times-Picayune, April 25, 2011)
- Kobe Bryant apparently says no thanks to MRI (ESPN LA, April 26, 2011)
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