With a 13-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter on Friday night, the Hornets looked all but buried as the Lakers seemingly had the win locked up like a criminal for the third time in four regular season meetings between the Western foes.
Not so fast…
After eight minutes had passed in the quarter, the visitors had managed to charge all the way back to tie the game at 93 before eventually holding a three-point lead with just 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Enter Derek Fisher.
Exhibit A: After stealing the rock with 24 seconds left in the game and his team up three, Chris Paul streaked up the floor, flanked by two teammates, and chose to go to the rim for a layup attempt. Unfortunately for Paul, Fisher never gave up on the play, sliding over to draw a charge and regain possession for the Lakers.
Exhibit B: Coming out of the timeout, the ball found its way to Pau Gasol at the high post, with Kobe Bryant rolling to Pau’s right. Sneaking in behind at the top of the key was Fisher, whom Paul unexpectedly left to double Gasol. Though the play had been designed for Bryant, Gasol read CP3′s overplay and quickly fed Fisher, who rose and fired from three in rhythm to tie the game with 14 seconds left. L.A. then hung in on defense, watching Paul’s 22-foot jumper rim out to force OT.
L.A. wasn’t about to blow it once again.
Bryant simply dominated the overtime, scoring 11 points from the right block, left block, top of the key and free throw line to ensure that a feisty swarm of Hornets wouldn’t win for the second straight time at STAPLES Center after a similar fourth quarter comeback (and win) on Jan. 6.
The MVP finished the game with 39 points, Lamar Odom grabbed another 17 rebounds, Gasol put up 20 and 12 and Luke Walton had a great all-around game (14 points, eight boards, four dimes) in L.A.’s 45th victory of the season.
“Well, it gives us the confidence that we can make mistakes or have a game like that and still come out of it with a win,” said Phil Jackson in summary. “(But) I wasn’t happy with the ball game. I thought we made it a lot harder on ourselves which we have to give New Orleans credit for.”
Indeed they did, but nonetheless, the Lakers held on to the league’s best record heading into a road trip to Minnesota (Sunday) and Oklahoma City (Tuesday).
Derek Fisher’s number. Also, the number of huge plays made by Fish in the fourth quarter to force OT, starting with the drawn charge and concluding with the game-tying triple.
Free throw makes in as many attempts by Kobe Bryant en route to a game-high 39 points.
Assists from Chris Paul, who added 21 points and four steals but still finished the game at -15.
Shooting percentage from L.A.’s bench, who was quite bad in hitting only 5-of-20 shots for 16 collective points.
Points from New Orleans shooting guard Rasual Butler, who’s been starting in place of the injured Morris Peterson. Butler nailed 6-of-8 threes, including two in overtime, to lead the way for the Hornets.
Points in the paint scored by New Orleans, which is quite low for an overtime game, but makes more sense when you look at the 32 threes they attempted.