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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

Lakers' Fisher Makes His Points Against Trail Blazers

April 27, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

Plus-minus ratings are more valuable for judging the effectiveness of players in ice hockey than basketball. I'm not even sure they're that valuable in ice hockey.

But there was a telling statistic in the Lakers' 108-99 victory over Portland on Sunday at the Great Western Forum.

When Derek Fisher was the point guard, the Lakers' outscored the Trail Blazers by 26 points. When Nick Van Exel was the point guard, the Trail Blazers outscored the Lakers by 17.

That's not difficult to interpret. Fisher had a good game, with 10 points, seven assists, two steals and no turnovers in 22 minutes. Van Exel didn't, with five points, one assist, no steals and no turnovers in 25 minutes.

Laker Coach Del Harris offers another interpretation. The Lakers have two point guards capable of winning playoff games.

Van Exel was better in the first game Friday night, scoring 14 points, including three three-point baskets, in 33 minutes of the Lakers' 104-102 victory. Fisher scored four points in 15 minutes.

But with Fisher again starting Sunday, the Lakers rushed to a 21-10 lead before Van Exel replaced him. When Fisher returned with four minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Lakers were behind by five. By the time Van Exel entered again with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter, the Lakers were ahead by 12.

How much of that is attributable to Fisher?

A lot.

Fisher might have been little better than adequate offensively, but he was outstanding in containing Damon Stoudamire.

Portland's point guard had 17 points and 14 assists. But he scored 12 of his points against Van Exel.

"By Nick's own admission, Derek is a little bit better defensively," Harris said. "That's nothing negative. It's just a compliment Nick has bestowed on Derek."

With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, though, Harris went with Van Exel.

"It's something you have to deal with," Fisher said. "When you're playing behind an all-star, he deserves to be out there."

There are advantages, Fisher said, pointing out Stoudamire had to play about twice as many minutes as either he or Van Exel.

"It's almost like two on one," Fisher said.

*

The difference in the Lakers during this season's playoffs is they're more mature. . . .

So said Kobe Bryant, 19. . . .

We'll find out Tuesday night, when they play in Portland. . . .

The Lakers won both games at home against the Trail Blazers in last season's first round, then were almost blown out in Game 3. . . .

"We're just going to have to go up there and put them away," Shaquille O'Neal said. . . .

The Lakers will have to shoot free throws better than they did Sunday, when they missed 18. . . .

For once, Shaq wasn't the only hack. . . .

Eddie Jones missed six of 14 free throws. . . .

Asked what the Lakers are going to do about their free throws, Harris said, "We'll practice them tomorrow." . . .

Who can forget Harris coached some of the best free-throw shooters in NBA history, including Calvin Murphy, Rick Barry and Ricky Pierce? . . .

Harris keeps reminding everyone, including himself. . . .

Even though the Lakers shot only 65.4% from the line Sunday, they still scored twice as many points from there as the Trail Blazers, who shot only 21 free throws. . . .

That's compared to the Lakers' 52. . . .

Why the disparity? . . .

"Ask the ref," Portland center Arvydas Sabonis said. . . .

Don't have to. . . .

The Lakers shot more free throws because the Trail Blazers committed more fouls. . . .

As the Lakers learned when they were on the other end of this debate in playoffs past against Moses Malone and Detroit's Bad Boys, the more aggressive team offensively earns more trips to the line. . . .

Even Elden Campbell has been aggressive in the last two games. . . .

"We tease Elden that he was pacing himself for 82 games," Bryant said. . . .

Ever wonder why Rick Fox was the Celtics' captain before coming to the Lakers? . . .

After a bad game Friday, he was practicing his shooting at the Forum three hours before Sunday's tip-off. . . .

Declaring victory over Jones, Isaiah Rider claims he "shut up" the Forum crowd. . . .

That proves Rider is deaf as well as dumb. . . .

Bill Walton referred to Portland's sixth man Sunday as "the great Walt Williams." . . .

Maybe he meant Walt Whitman.

*

While wondering if Mike Dunleavy wonders whether he should have stayed in L.A., I was thinking: I hope you saw Sabonis play when he was still mobile, Rider should be aware there's not a GM in his right mind who would take him over Jones, Rider should shut up.

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