GAME 3: Celtics Comeback Dies Late in Fourth Quarter
BOSTON (AP)—Derek Fisher rallied his teammates with a motivational speech on the bench during the break before the fourth quarter.
Then he went out and showed them how it's done.
“Derek, he's our vocal leader. He's the guy that pulls everybody together and is always giving positive reinforcement,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said after Fisher made five baskets in the final period to lead Los Angeles to a 91-84 victory Tuesday night over the Boston Celtics and a 2-1 lead in the NBA finals.
“That's what he does. That's what he's been doing extremely well. He has a knack for saying the right thing at the right time.”
Bryant scored 29 points and Fisher had 16, including 11 in the fourth quarter after Boston cut a 17-point first-half lead to one point.
Game 4 is Thursday night in Boston, and a Lakers victory would put them within one win of avenging the loss to their longtime rivals in the 2008 finals — not to mention the eight other times the Celtics have won an NBA title at the Lakers' expense.
“Our thoughts are really just still on how disappointed we are, or were, losing that second game on our home court. I think that had more of our attention and focus than what happened in '08,” Fisher said. “We didn't doubt our ability to win here. … We understand when you want to be the best, you have to win wherever, whenever.”
Bryant had 25 points after three quarters, but he did not score for the first 10 minutes of the fourth. That's when Fisher took over, hitting four out of five Lakers baskets to help them reclaim the home-court advantage they lost when the Celtics won Game 2 in L.A.
“Derek Fisher was the difference in the game,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “He's just a gutty, gritty player and he gutted the game out for them. I thought Kobe was struggling a little bit, and Fisher—he basically took the game over. … I don't know what he had in the fourth quarter … but most of them were down the stretch.”
Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum had 10 rebounds apiece for Los Angeles.
Kevin Garnett, who had just six points in Boston's victory Sunday, had 25 in Game 3. But Allen, who had 32 points in Game 2, missed all 13 field goal attempts—one shy of the NBA finals futility record—many of them while Fisher was guarding him.
“It's a hell of a swing, I'll tell you that,” Rivers said. “It's basketball. That's why you can't worry about it. He'll be back in the gym tomorrow and getting ready for the next game. … It happens to the best of us.”
The Celtics had high hopes after splitting the opening two games in Los Angeles, but the “Beat L.A.!” chants at the TD Garden couldn't help them overcome poor shooting.
And it couldn't stop Fisher.
Fisher, 34, came into the league with Bryant in 1996 and has a history of clutch shots, from the heave with 0.4 seconds left to beat San Antonio in the 2004 playoffs to the late jumpers in a series-swinging victory over Orlando in Game 4 of last year's finals. The Lakers went on to beat the Magic in five games, earning their 15th NBA title—second only to Boston's 17.
“I think as you grow in this game and you put in the work that's required to still be around 14 years later, you start to recognize that being in this moment, on this stage, it's not a given. It's not something that happens every season,” Fisher said. “Five or 10 years from now, when I'm long gone, I would have hated to feel like I didn't just do everything I could have to help my team. Things have worked out well, and we have two more wins to get to really put a nice cap on it.”
The Lakers opened a 37-20 first-half lead, but Boston cut the deficit to four late in the third quarter and then made it 68-67 early in the fourth on consecutive drives by Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Rajon Rondo(notes). With a chance to take the lead, Allen was called for an offensive foul away from the ball.
Fisher then scored four of the Lakers' next five baskets to give them a five-point lead with about 4 1/2 minutes left. He scored another with 49 seconds left before being flattened by Davis, among others, and adding the free throw to make it a three-possession game.
“He saw the opening and went and made a very bold play. … It was imperative that it goes in for us to win,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “When he's got an opportunity to hit a key shot, it seems like he's always there and ready.”
Allen missed all eight 3-pointers, all five 2-pointers and got to the line just twice. He was spared of matching the worst shooting performance in NBA finals history when Garnett was called for an offensive foul away from the ball in the final minute while Allen clanged another shot off the rim.
“We obviously didn't expect him to go 0 for 13, but it's a tough gig for him to run around offensively the way he has to and then have to guard Kobe on the other end,” Fisher said. “I mean, that takes anybody's legs out. It takes my legs out chasing him. So there are going to be nights maybe when his legs aren't there because he's having to work so hard on both ends, but we won't see 0 for 13 on Thursday night, that's for sure.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)