Lakers point guard Derek Fisher celebrates after making what proved to… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Kobe Bryant didn't score 40 points. The Lakers almost didn't score at all in the third quarter. And yet, everything was fine for the home team.
Bringing new meaning to Bryant's early-season prediction they'd win a lot of games the ugly way, the Lakers outlasted the Dallas Mavericks, 73-70, on Monday night at Staples Center.
In a long, slow roundabout way, this was what Derek Fisher had in mind when he got his teammates together at Monday morning's shoot-around and reminded them of what happened last May.
That would have been a four-game sweep by the Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals, including a 122-86 embarrassment for the Lakers in the finale.
Fittingly, Fisher was the catalyst Monday, 37 years old and all.
His three-pointer with 3.1 seconds left turned out to be the game-winner, a 26-footer from the right side after everybody in the arena thought Bryant would be the shooter. Instead, Bryant passed the ball back to Fisher after drawing a double team.
"I don't think he knew I was going to shoot it, but he trusted me to make the right play," Fisher said.
Fisher's release was clean, the shot even cleaner.
It's what the Lakers (10-5) needed after their dirty third quarter.
They scored seven points and almost uncorked their worst quarter since the shot clock era began in 1954, barely topping their six-point first quarter in November 1977 against Chicago.
"I don't necessarily think it's a coincidence that our team and the Mavericks have played the most games in the league so far to start the season and we're two of the most experienced teams," said Fisher, who had 13 points, nine in the fourth quarter. "To have your 14th and 15th game in 20 or 21 games, you probably can't be too surprised that it was a little bit sloppy and a little bit ugly."
Fisher stepped in front of Jason Kidd's cross-court pass and scored at the other end to put the Lakers up, 64-59, with 4:44 to play. Then he hustled downcourt with the ball after a long rebound by the Lakers and pulled up for a mid-range jumper from the right side.
The Lakers needed all they could get from anybody on their roster after Bryant's string of 40-point games ended at four.
He was never able to find the right cadence, scoring 14 points on seven-for-22 shooting.
His night was summarized with three bad possessions in a row early in the third quarter, getting the ball stolen from him by Shawn Marion, then getting his shot blocked by Marion, then missing badly on a rushed shot near the top of the key.
Pau Gasol was also off-kilter, scoring eight points on three-for-11 shooting.
Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 15 rebounds, and the Lakers had Fisher, period.
It ruined the night for the Mavericks (8-6), who had never scored fewer than 80 points against the Lakers in the shot-clock era.
It also capped off the return of Lamar Odom, who received an incredibly warm ovation when he checked into the game and finished with 10 points against his former team.
He cooled off after scoring seven points in the first quarter and ended up missing eight of 12 shots.
Fisher was the difference? Didn't surprise Odom. "I've seen that before," he said.
Can the Lakers carry momentum across the country? They have a back-to-back set with Miami and Orlando, Thursday and Friday, both on the road.
Nothing came easy Monday night, for sure.