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MARK HEISLER

Giving Derek Fisher his space: Bad idea

June 12, 2009|MARK HEISLER | ON THE NBA

ORLANDO, FLA. — No, no, no!

The Lakers wanted a Finals with characters, like Mickey Mouse, Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy, not character, although they were getting more than they bargained for, at least for three games plus 47 minutes and 56 seconds.

At that point, Derek Fisher buried a three-pointer to send Game 4 into overtime, where the Lakers proceeded to beat the Orlando Magic, 99-91, on Thursday night, taking a 3-1 lead in the series that seemed about to be tied.

Game 4 had it all for the Lakers: lows like the first half in which they trailed by 12 points, as Phil Jackson, the Yoda of coaches, complained of "bogus calls," raged at the officials and got a technical foul; highs like their second half; surprises like Fisher's taking the big shot at the end of regulation, after missing his first five threes.

In other words, it was like the Lakers' entire postseason.

What, you expected domination?

This postseason, Lakers fans will take what they can get and hope to recuperate over the summer.

It was more poetic justice that Fisher, still their Little Engine That Can, was the hero after being written off as washed up when he struggled, as the Lakers struggled, in the second and third rounds.

With the Lakers inbounding the ball, down 87-84 with 11 seconds left, Fisher brought the ball up with Orlando's Jameer Nelson giving him so much room, Fisher let it fly and hit the new biggest shot of his career.

"We gave him so much space," lamented Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy. "We played him like we were trying to prevent the layup. . . .

"That play will haunt me forever."

To that point, the Magic, which seemed on the verge of tying the series, 2-2, had given the Lakers all they wanted.

Arriving here with a 2-0 lead, the Lakers were hoping Orlando's shooters would start thinking as the pressure mounted before Game 3, when the Magic shot a Finals record 63% and suggested that wasn't happening.

"The one thing about our guys that I think I can count on is the fact that they won't think," said Van Gundy, breaking up the interview room before Game 4.

"I can count on that. That will not be a problem. We are not going to think. . . .

"When you're missing those shots, people criticize and write, 'They settle for too many shots, they need to be more aggressive'; when you make them, you talk about how great our ball movement is."

Van Gundy often says all the stories are already written, awaiting only the outcome to determine which one runs, the everything-is-great one, or the everything-stinks one.

So what are tonight's stories? someone asked.

"Well, this one, the Lakers are 6-0 coming off [losses this postseason], so if they come back and win tonight . . . you guys are all going to write the series is over.

"And if we win, it's about our toughness and resilience, and you guys all knew this was going to be a great series all along."

This guy has a future in sportswriting if he wants to work that cheap.

Actually, the series isn't over. Anyone who has watched the Lakers this postseason knows that whatever happens, nothing is promised, or even imaginable.

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mark.heisler@latimes.com

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