Updated: June 9, 2010, 11:53 AM ET

1. Fisher Plays The Hero For The Lakers ... Again

By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com

BOSTON -- All Derek Fisher wanted to do was run down the clock. Somehow he turned the mundane into the memorable. You know, one day that could stand as an epitaph for his career.

This was a Lakers victory enabled by both Fisher's words and deeds, its meaning made clear by his emotions afterward. But we live in a highlight-oriented world, so cue the video ...

The Lakers led by four points in the final minute of Game 3, a game that had been squeezed tight like elephants in an elevator, and Fisher was trying to push the ball into the frontcourt. He made his way past Kevin Garnett near midcourt and suddenly saw a clear path to the basket.

"I saw KG coming up, and the angle that he took, I knew I could get around him without stepping on the left sideline," Fisher said. "And once I broke through him, I saw that they didn't have anybody back at the basket. So I just took the direct line."

Ordinarily a Fisher drive could rate right up there with a Ron Artest 3-pointer when it comes to shots that cause anxiety for the Lakers. One thing he'll never be called is the best finisher in the NBA. But in this case he had clearance -- almost a mandate to go to the hoop.

"We have this direct line principle," Phil Jackson said. "No one steps up, you keep going. And he saw the opening and went and made a very bold play."

Ray Allen and Glen Davis rushed in to protect the basket. Garnett closed from behind. But Fisher got there first, and released his layup before the three Celtics bodies converged on him. He got off the shot as Davis was called for the foul and Fisher made the bucket plus the free throw to give the Lakers a seven-point lead with 48.3 seconds remaining. The Lakers held on to win 91-84 and regained the lead in the NBA Finals, 2-1.

"That play, I think, simply won the game," Rajon Rondo said.

"Derek Fisher was the difference," Doc Rivers declared.

It was a game begging for a singular angle or memorable hero. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 29 points, but it took him 29 field goal attempts (19 of them missed) to get there. Andrew Bynum gave the Lakers what he could, but his right knee was acting up again and he wasn't able to play 39 minutes as he did in Game 2. Lamar Odom resurfaced, scoring eight points in the first half.

But when the game hung in the balance, after the Celtics had chopped a 17-point Lakers lead back down to low single digits, it was Fisher who came through. First he gathered the players together before the start of the final quarter.

"He said, if before the game started, if they put us in the fourth quarter with the lead, would any one of us be mad?" Luke Walton recalled. "And the answer to that's 'No.' If you have the lead in the fourth quarter, on their home court, you take that. People were kind of down and kind of worried a little bit, it looked like. And we got everything together and went out and took care of business."

If it was business, Fisher was the CEO. He scored 11 of his 16 points in the final quarter. He recognized the Celtics would stick with Kobe coming off screens and exploited the extra space he had. He drove to the basket. He made five of his seven field goal attempts and that one big free throw.

"He's just a gutty, gritty player and he gutted the game out for them," Rivers said.

Fisher's exactly what the Lakers needed. I had a conversation with a Hall of Fame player Monday night, and he refuted my theory that a series is about who prevails under optimal conditions; that is, whose best can beat whose best. He said it's the opposite. It's about whose grit is grittier. You don't get "best" in the NBA Finals. The teams are too familiar with each other, the scouting reports are too detailed, the animosity ratchets up too high to allow for fluid, high-level basketball. Who can win the games when the plays don't go the way the coaches draw them up in the huddles, when the officials' whistles are disrupting the flow (yes, it happened again) and when the shooters' shots aren't falling? In Game 3 it was the Lakers, largely thanks to Fisher.

He has outlasted Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and Steve Nash in this playoff run, and Tuesday he made a bigger impact than Rondo. Any one of those point guards would be selected over Fisher in a draft or free-agent marketplace, but Fisher's big moments in the playoffs over the past seven years rank above or beyond them all.

Meanwhile, has any accomplished champion taken as much criticism from his own fans as Fisher from the Lakers faithful the past two seasons? They howl as opposing point guards take express paths to the lane while Fisher struggles to knock down shots. They openly speculate about the next starting point guard for the Lakers. And all Fisher does is deliver when it matters most, and keeps getting them closer to the championships Lakers fans feel are ordained to be theirs.

Fisher's big games won't be as spectacular as Bryant's. His shots won't be as smooth as Pau Gasol's. But no performances resonate with the Lakers as much, in particular with their leader and Fisher's staunchest defender.

"Derek, he's our vocal leader," Bryant said. "He's the guy that pulls everybody together and is always giving positive reinforcement. I'm the opposite."

When I worked at the L.A. Times I had a reader who would go into a postcard-writing rage every time I mentioned Fisher in a column (even as innocuous as "Derek Fisher scored 12 points"). I wonder if all those who cringe at the sight of Fisher would feel the same way if they had seen him in the Lakers' locker room during the early weeks of the 2007-08 season, when a frustrated Bryant was counting down the days until the Lakers traded him and Fisher was the guy checking in with him, keeping him connected, talking him back down from the ledge.

Those times Bryant threatens to shoot too much for the Lakers' own good, it's Fisher who has the authority and confidence to pass the ball elsewhere, or let Bryant know when he's wrong.

"He's really the only one I listen to," Bryant said. "Everybody else is a bunch of young kids. Derek, he and I came in the league together. We spent long nights together as rookies, battling each other, playing full-court one-on-one games. We've been through it. So he can come to me and say, 'Kobe, you're [messing] up.'"

After the game ended and it was time for the postgame interviews, Fisher got to go first. And he was choking up as he talked to Doris Burke while Bryant waited on her other side.

"I love what I do and I love helping my team win," Fisher said. "Even when things maybe aren't going the way I'd like them to go for reasons I can control and some I can't, I still pretty much keep my mouth shut and just keep doing my job and remain faithful that things will come around when they need to.

"And so to come through tonight again for this team, 14 years in, after so many great moments, it's always quite surreal and quite humbling to experience it again and do it again."

It keeps happening again. The guy averaging 9.0 points for his career, who often hits the floor more than he hits shots, is also the guy who hit the biggest shot of the 2009 NBA Finals and just turned in the pivotal quarter so far in these Finals. For Derek Fisher, the clutch performances are almost becoming normal.

J.A. Adande is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.

Dimes past: May 17 | 18 | 19 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | June 3 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

2. Rivers Officially Miffed At Refs

By Peter May
Special to ESPN Boston
Rivers
Rivers

BOSTON -- OK, it's bad form to rip the referees. But all Doc Rivers wants to know is this: Can he get through one game of the NBA Finals without one of his key players getting into early foul trouble? Is that too much to ask?

In the hugely pivotal Game 3 on Tuesday night, which the Lakers won 91-84, the Celtics once again found themselves playing with only two of their Big Three. (Actually, only one, seeing as how Ray Allen went from Tucson in July to Vladivostok in December.) The final statistics will show that Paul Pierce had 15 points, three of them in the final minute. He picked up two quick fouls and was out of sorts for most of the night, battling Ron Artest and the officials. He had as many fouls (five) as field goals, and for the second straight game was pretty much a nonfactor.

To read the entire column, click here

3. Boston's Allen Goes Hoopless

By Elias Sports Bureau
Allen
Allen

Ray Allen missed all 13 of his shots in the Celtics' Game 2 loss. Only two other players had a worse 0-fer in an NBA Finals game: Chick Reiser went 0-for-14 for Baltimore in Game 1 of the 1948 Finals at Philadelphia and Dennis Johnson went 0-for-14 for Seattle in Game 7 in 1978 against Washington.

Allen was 0-for-8 from 3-point range. Only one player had a worse 0-fer from beyond the arc in an NBA Finals game: John Starks went 0-for-11 for the Knicks in Game 7 against the Rockets in 1994.

  • The Celtics have scored fewer than 100 points in each of their last eight home playoff games. That's the longest such streak in Boston's franchise history. The last NBA team to score fewer than 100 points in eight straight home playoff games was the Knicks in 2000 (eight).

  • 4. Daily Dime Live Recap

    ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Tuesday's game -- all in Daily Dime Live.

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