02/23/2012 - 11:00
Fish Bites Mavericks Again
Derek Fisher remembers the 2011 playoffs.
He remembers his team getting swept out of their run at a three-peat by the Dallas Mavericks last season and he made sure it was fresh in the minds of his teammates before they returned to Dallas on Wednesday for the first time since that playoff sweep. "Derek reminded us," center Andrew Bynum said.
"The way last season ended," Derek said, "this game was big for a lot of us."
Andrew Bynum embraces Derek after another big 4th quarter three (AP Photo).
The Lakers won't get a true chance to exact revenge for that ouster until the 2012 season hits the playoffs, but with clutch play down the stretch of two separate meetings already this season, D-Fish has sent a message about what LA is capable of.
The last time the two teams met, back on Jan. 16 in LA, it was Derek's trey with 3.1 seconds left that pushed the Lakers to a 73-70 win. This time, Fish's heroics came a little earlier, but he was just as influential as Los Angeles went into Dallas and scored a 96-91 road win.
Derek stepped up to score a season-high 15 points in the victory, his most important production coming, as usual, in the late stages of the game during winning time. Fish's two buckets during a 31-second stretch late in the fourth pushed a two-point Lakers lead to seven. They led the rest of the way to the victory.
Not surprisingly, Derek has been at his best in close and late situations — inside five minutes to go with the score within five — again this season. According to ESPN Stats and Info, with Fish on the floor in "clutch time" this season, LA is averaging 1.10 points per possession, compared to just 0.96 with Steve Blake.
Derek had already given LA 21 effective minutes through the first three quarters as he sat waiting for his turn in the fourth. That chance came with 5:28 to play and the score tied at 82, when coach Mike Brown put D-Fish back in for Blake.
Shortly thereafter, the Lakers took the lead on a pair of Andrew Bynum free throws. It was the first lead of the fourth quarter for LA, in a game that had seen 13 ties and 10 lead changes. But thanks to a push by D-Fish, the lead would not change hands again.
Following Bynum's free throws, Dallas had three unsuccessful looks at the basket and Mavs center Brendan Haywood missed both two free throws that would've tied the game. Then the Lakers and Mavs traded turnovers. The game was turning sloppy.
Another night, another big trey from D-Fish (Getty Images).
But LA found its groove again with ball movement on the next possession, Bryant touched it, then Gasol, who threw it inside to Bynum. LA's big center thought about taking a shot, but instead dished out to Fish at the right wing for three. Derek buried the jumper to put the Lakers up five. After another Dallas miss, the ball found Derek's hands again and No. 2 drove in for a floater to extend the lead to seven.
"Having a bit of a cushion on the road is big," Derek said of the 9-0 run that he helped spark. "We've played from behind a lot in our road games, and to have that cushion so that when things don't always go as well, you can still get a win."
Things didn't go perfectly for the Lakers down the stretch, as they missed 7-of-10 free throws. The misses even forced coach Mike Brown to call Derek over to ask what was going on.
"I called Derek Fisher over at one point and said, ‘What are you guys trying to do to me? My heart's going crazy right now I'm a little overweight and it's not good for overweight people to have heart problems like that,'" Brown said.
But Dallas never got closer than two. A free throw from Derek with 5.7 seconds left capped off his best offensive night of the season and secured a huge Laker win. After the victory, Derek compared the game closing free throw drama to the drama the Lakers have been experiencing off the court.
"I've seen teams do that before but not our team or any team I've been on," he said. "We're doing such a great job of providing off the court drama right now, so we just had to follow it up with on the court drama. We just felt we had a responsibility to the people."
Despite the on and off the court drama, the win was a big one for LA, a road win they needed and they played like it from wire-to-wire.
Derek's 15 points came from shooting 6-for-8 from the field and 2-for-3 from behind the three point line, resulting in his best shooting percentage of the season. Fish also added three rebounds. Mark Medina of the LA Times lauded Derek's economical evening:
"Fisher played with great efficiency. His shots came in rhythm and off great ball movement. That included a sequence that entailed Bryant facing a double team and feeding to Gasol at the left elbow, Gasol passing to Bynum inside and Bynum kicking the ball out at the top of the key. Fisher nailed the three-pointer to give the Lakers an 87-82 lead with 4:13 remaining. He then made a floater in the lane on the next possession."
Derek tallied his first points of the night off a 22-foot jump shot, assisted by Andrew Bynum. The basket came halfway through the first quarter and put the Lakers ahead by four points. Moments later, Fish grabbed a defensive rebound after Vince Carter missed a three pointer. The board led directly to another Lakers bucket.
No. 2 directed the Lakers to a first quarter lead and a fourth quarter surge (Getty Images).
Los Angeles jumped out to a quick start and led 25-21 after the first quarter, but the teams went into halftime tied at 48.
The second half is where Derek was most productive, hitting a 21-foot jumper one minute into the third. Dallas responded with two baskets of their own but Derek did not let that slow him down. Fish made an 18-foot jump shot with the help of Metta World Peace to tie the game at 52.
But like a heavyweight title fight, each time the Lakers delivered a punch, the Mavs had an answer. With the score tied at 56, Bynum hit back-to-back sets of free throws to give the Lakers a four-point lead.
Dallas answered with a three pointer to cut the LA edge to one, but Derek fired one right back to push the lead back to four. By the end of a third quarter which featured seven ties, the Mavs had rallied to knot it at 72 heading into the final 12 minutes of the game. The first six minutes of that fourth saw four more ties, but led by big buckets from Derek, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the closing minutes, Los Angeles pulled out the victory.
"It was a good win for us," Fish said. "There are a lot of good teams, but this team [Dallas] has been playing well, and defensively they've been really great in recent weeks. Obviously with the way last season ended it was a big game for a lot of us that remember that. But this is a team. We realize that Kobe is our lead guy. He's going to be the guy that carries the game most nights, but Pau and Andrew were great, and Matt and Metta were great on the boards from the forward position."
But when Derek was asked if Wednesday's victory made up for the Mavs' sweep of the Lakers last season, his response was succinct and pointed:
"Not even close," he said.
Los Angeles will wrap up the first half of the season by traveling to Oklahoma City to face a red-hot Thunder squad. The game will be Los Angeles' last before the All-Star break.
Tip-off is set for 6:30 PST and the game can be seen on TNT.
- Rapid Reaction: Lakers 96, Mavericks 91 (ESPN Land O'Lakers, Feb. 22, 2012)
- Lakers Gameday: Feb. 22, 2012 (Lakers.com, Feb. 22, 2012)
- Lakers 96, Mavs 91: Feb. 22 Running Diary (Lakers.com, Feb. 22, 2012)
- Lakers hit midway mark with 96-91 win over Dallas (Associated Press, Feb. 22, 2012)
- Their play's the thing in Lakers' victory (LA Times, Feb. 22, 2012)
- Lakers continue to show a flair for the dramatic (LA Times, Feb. 22, 2012)
- Five things to take from Lakers' 96-91 win over Dallas Mavericks (LA Times, Feb. 22, 2012)
- LAKERS 96, DALLAS 91: L.A. gets sliver of revenge (LA Daily News, Feb. 22, 2012)
- Gasol, memories fuel Lakers (OC Register, Feb. 22, 2012)
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