Archive for the 'Finals' Category

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6-12 Injury Update: Andrew Bynum

bynum_smilePotentially good news for the Lakers came from the lips of Andrew Bynum on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m going to play, 100 percent,” he stated regarding Sunday’s Game 5.

While the team is still taking a wait-and-see-how-it-feels-before-the-game approach, Bynum was confident that he’d be able to contribute, stating that the draining process he underwent on Friday did its job and that he’s feeling better.

“I think we’re still optimistic that he’s going to give it a shot,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “We have a day to work with him. He’s had a day of therapy and he can start getting some movement and maybe start activating himself tomorrow and get himself going.”

We’d learned on Friday that Bynum had an MRI scan of his right knee that showed no additional damage, and that he’d had the knee drained on Thursday evening after the game.

Many of Bynum’s teammates, not to mention his general manager Mitch Kupchak, praised his toughness and “maturity” (in Kupchak’s words) for playing through the pain, as Kobe Bryant for one has done for so many years.

Bynum’s fully expecting some swelling to return to the knee after the game, but feels that the additional day between games 4 and 5 will have him playing at a high level.

We’ll see in a bit over 24 hours.

6-11 Injury Update: Andrew Bynum

60707212Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who was able to play just under two minutes in the second half of Thursday evening’s Game 4 loss in Boston, underwent an MRI on Friday that revealed no new damage to his right knee.

According to Lakers spokesman John Black, Bynum also had fluid drained from the swollen knee on Friday, the same process that occurred before the Finals opened in Los Angeles last week (May 31).

Bynum said after Game 4 that he hoped to play in Sunday’s Game 5; he will be officially listed as questionable for the contest.

In the meantime, the 22-year-old will continue a variety of treatments on the knee to get it as ready for action as is possible.

Bynum had been a solid force for L.A. in the team’s first three games against Boston, including a 21-point, 7-block, 6-rebound performance in Game 2 and his nine points with 10 rebounds in Game 3, and was noticeably missed in Game 4.

“It bothered us in the second half not having Andrew be able to come out and play the start of the second half,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “He tried a couple minutes, but it just wasn’t there for him. We’re glad we have a couple days off and we can kind of get him back hopefully in position where he can help us out again.”

Both Jackson and Bynum’s teammates praised what the young big man has shown from a toughness standpoint while battling through his injury, with Kobe Bryant saying that he thought ‘Drew would “be fine,” that he’d “bounce back and give it a go.”

We’ll have another update right here after Saturday’s practice.

Phil Jackson – Friday Presser Transcript

60708045The Lakers did not practice on Friday as a team, though Phil Jackson explained that the players who didn’t play major minutes will do some playing as well as lifting weights and the like. Those that played big minutes, particularly Kobe Bryant (43) and Pau Gasol (44) have the day off.

Here is the full transcript of Jackson’s comments, including a non-update on Andrew Bynum:

Q. What is the condition of Andrew today? And what do you expect from him from Game 5 on Sunday?
PHIL JACKSON: I haven’t got any expectations. I don’t know what his condition is today. He was going to see the doctor later this morning, but in the transition I didn’t get another check with him.

Q. Are you surprised that the fluid has come back?
PHIL JACKSON: No, not surprised at all. It’s come back every game.

Q. What can you do to get Lamar jump started seeing as how he’s going to be playing a lot more time in the series it looks like?
PHIL JACKSON: I was thinking of an electrode, you know. (Laughter). Something that would really be a stimulus. What do you suggest?

Q. That’s a good start.
PHIL JACKSON: No, we’re just trying to find a comfort spot for him out there. He looked uncomfortable last night, and he got a couple double whammies go against him; Garnett out there for a while and then he had Davis coming at him, and things kind of snowballed on him.

Q. When Andrew has gone out and Lamar has come in, it seems like Lamar is playing on top, and you lose your inside game. Is that by design? Is he supposed to start on top and wind up someplace else, or is he supposed to get the ball around the basket ever?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, we’re trying to get him through the offense and into various spots. But he still has a guard role out there. So his responsibility is to actually bring the ball up and initiate the offense. That gives us kind of an unusual attack and gets Kobe at the wing, and it’s something that obviously Boston is quite prepared to try and stop. And the quickness of Davis, who’s a rather unusual player in the NBA with his size, still his quickness is I think affecting Lamar.

Q. Would it be good if Lamar could wind up closer to the basket more often?
PHIL JACKSON: You know, he had a couple post‑up opportunities that he chose to step out and take the ball outside rather than post it, so you know, there was something that I thought ‑‑ that’s what I referred to as probably wasn’t quite comfortable in those positions at that time.

60707828Q. The way that Lamar came up 19 and 19 in the Phoenix series, a couple big games, do you have the confidence he is going to come out with one of those big performances in these last best of three?
PHIL JACKSON: Both he and Ron, I think, have the ability to rebound and come back. Both of them are capable of playing big in games that are like this. We have confidence, and I have confidence that Ron is going to have a game and be ready for a ballgame. He’s had a really tough shooting situation in this series and he hasn’t done well, and defensively he’s been fine, but offensively it hasn’t been quite the same. So he has, you know, a game to get to and to play. Lamar struggled two years ago in this series in this match‑up, and he has to break through kind of that mental gap that he had from that experience to move forward.

Q. With Andrew, to what extent are you making the call on this? Obviously you would think if he goes and warms up on Sunday a young player in the NBA Finals would say, I want to play. I want to try it. Do you have to at some point say it’s just not working for our team?
PHIL JACKSON: If he can’t get back in defense transition‑wise, and that’s one of the things they’re trying to attack with our first unit obviously when Andrew is out there is try and run, then obviously he’s going to hurt the team. But even with him dragging the leg around a little bit, he still helped us in situations last night getting rebounds, that I thought a lot of our other guys ‑‑ got the ball knocked out of their hands, fumbled the ball, went out of bounds off of them. Andrew still has the length and the strength to capture rebounds that we need. So we’ll use him if he’s available and able, but we’re certainly not going to put him in a situation that’s either going to hurt himself or the team.

Q. Some of the players last night mentioned that there was a lack of ball movement. What would you point your finger to as to why there was that lack of ball movement later on in the game?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, you know, the Celtics’ defense, a touted defense, likes to get up into players and make them put the ball on the floor. I mean, that’s part of their game plan is to make a guy uncomfortable enough to have to drive and then put him under duress on a drive. So our situation is obviously to be able to use that to our advantage, and that’s the skill and the aspect that some of our players still haven’t developed yet. Our starters are pretty good at it, some of our bench players haven’t developed the skill yet to kind of handle that and succeed and actually use it against the Celtics.

Q. What will you guys do, if anything, as a team today?
PHIL JACKSON: The players were getting on a bus at noon when I was coming over here, that haven’t played substantial minutes, to go do extra work, aerobic, weight, whatever. There’s a basket and a gym at the facility that we have ‑‑ that we use, that we use when we’re here, and they’ll do some of that. I have one of my coaches going over if guys want to do individual work. The rest of the guys who played heavy minutes are going to have a day off, and this afternoon we’ll probably have a short meeting just to connect ourselves again and go about our day, so it’s not disconnectedness that might happen or loss of focus. So we’ll get it back.

Q. No film, watch film or anything like that?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, we might save them from that for a day. We’ll see.

Q. Every series takes on its own tone. How would you characterize this series?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, I kind of anticipated this was going to be a back and forth series like this. I said this the other day, it’s a lot of teeter‑totter here, despair and elation, but we’re going to try and establish the fact that we’re going back to LA with a 3‑2 lead. We believe we can do it. We felt we let one get away last night. We didn’t think that the Celtics played well enough for three quarters, and we squandered our opportunities in the third quarter, and that we came out without the kind of energy you have to sustain in the fourth quarter situation like this.
Continue reading ‘Phil Jackson – Friday Presser Transcript’

Celtics Ride Surge of Energy to Game 4 Win

60707058After seizing home court advantage back from Boston with a Game 3 victory on the road, the Lakers expected the Celtics to come out like cornered dogs in Thursday evening’s Game 4.

They were right … but L.A. couldn’t tame the beast.

Riding a surge of extra energy from their bench in the fourth quarter, Boston outscored L.A. 36-27 in the final period to seize a 96-89 victory that tied the NBA Finals at two, ensuring that if the Lakers are going to win a 16th championship, it would come back in the City of Angels.

“They had their backs to the wall tonight,” said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. “They played desperate, and they got away with it.”

While Bryant and Pau Gasol scored 33 and 21 respective points, L.A. got only 35 points from the rest of its squad. The team’s two stars, who combined for 87 minutes of run, appeared to tire down the stretch while C’s subs Glen Davis and Nate Robinson combined for 15 of their 30 total points in the final period.

The Lakers struggled defensively down the stretch with that fatigue, caused in part by the absence of Andrew Bynum, who stayed in the locker room at halftime trying to get his ailing right knee ready to go but could offer only two minutes of second half playing time, 12:10 total.

“Obviously we miss Andrew when he’s not out there,” said Gasol. “He’s been so effective blocking shots and rebounding. Those two things alone are a big plus for us.”

60707342While Phil Jackson said that the team hoped the two days before Sunday’s Game 5 proved enough to get Bynum’s swollen knee ready to go (Bynum himself vowed to play), his absence provided some background to some statistical categories dominated by Boston.

The Celtics grabbed seven more rebounds (41-34), scored 20 more points in the paint (54-34), amassed 20 second-chance points thanks mostly to 16 offensive rebounds (to 10 and eight for L.A.) and outran the Purple and Gold to the tune of 15 fastbreak points against two from the Lakers.

“They got all the energy points, the hustle points, second-chance points, beat us to loose balls,” added Kobe Bryant. “That’s how the game turned around.”

In fact, 22 of Boston’s 36 fourth quarter points came in the paint.

“They really stepped on it in the fourth quarter,” said Phil Jackson. “We seemed to not be able to stop the momentum of their game. Their bench outplayed us in that sequence, and even with all that, at the end of the game we had our shot at it and couldn’t continue what we had to do.”

The Celtics successfully pushed Gasol and Lamar Odom 17 feet away from the basket particularly in the fourth, which contributed towards Bryant having to create perimeter looks for himself often late in the shot clock. After connecting on 5-of-7 threes in the first three quarter, he made only 1-of-4 in the fourth, and 2-of-6 shots overall.

“He was tired,” explained Jackson. “Physically he had to work too hard in the course of the game, and he couldn’t finish it out like he wanted to. We’ll have to do something different the next game to get him off the floor and keep him ready for that fourth quarter.”

Bryant, never one to concede that he is injured or tired, simply said “no” to postgame questions of that nature, suggesting that he was worried not at all about his shooting (“I can always go get a bucket”) but only about his team’s defense and rebounding.

That will be the team’s focus heading into Game 5, when the Lakers have a chance to take a 3-2 lead back to L.A. if they’re able to come away with a second road win.

“I think we have enough in our arsenal to produce,” said Gasol. “We know what to do, we know how to get it done.”

We’ll see about that on Sunday.

Until then, your numbers:

1:50 Second half minutes for Andrew Bynum, who’s ailing right knee was too swollen for him to be effective. His absence certainly affected L.A. adversely in several categories as documented below.

6 Points for Derek Fisher after he dropped 11 crucial ones in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s Game 3 win. Fisher was limited by foul trouble throughout, playing only 30 minutes, which Kobe Bryant said hurt the Lakers at both ends of the floor.

16 Offensive rebounds for the Celtics, which emphasized Boston’s desperation/effort and helped produce a 20-10 edge in second-chance points.

20 More points in the paint for the Celtics (54) than the Lakers (34), a category that L.A. almost always wins, including Games 1 and 3 (see: Bynum’s absence/Boston’s effort).

33 Points for Kobe Bryant to lead all scorers, on 10-of-22 FG’s and 7-of-8 FT’s. It marked the 13th time in 20 postseason games that Bryant had scored at least 30.

Lakers 89, Celtics 96: Finals Game 4 Twitter Diary

60705550Lakers – Celtics Gameday Page
After a thrilling Game 3 win in Boston, the Lakers looked to take a 3-1 series edge in Thursday’s Game 4 at in Beantown. Mike Trudell was typing all the way through on Twitter via the @LakersReporter account to make sure you didn’t miss a thing:

Lakers: Adam Morrison
Celtics: Tony Gaffney

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Phil Jackson on Bynum Starting
The major question heading into Game 4, as it had been since the opening of Round 2, regarded Andrew Bynum’s knee. There had been some speculation that Bynum wouldn’t play from various media outlets, but the 22-year-old said he would play no matter what, and Phil Jackson confirmed before the game that ‘Drew would indeed start: “We’ll try to get him six, seven minutes at the beginning of the game. He likes to get out there and participate and get the feel of the game, and we’ll see how it goes from there.

- The 9 p.m. Eastern start gives the Celtics fans plenty of time to rile up, though there’s a bit less energy than before Game 3.
- Danger note for me tweeting: 2 Celtics fans behind me saw the “” on my name card. They’ve had a few root beers.
- Lakers coaches identified 2 Boston plays that hurt ‘em in Games 1-3: 1) double high screen/roll; 2) an elbow screen/roll.
- 2 other keys for L.A.: limiting transition chances (C’s had 12 FB pts in Game 3) & getting ball inside consistently, esp. late.

60705724First Quarter
- Especially after Kobe’s fadeaway to open scoring. RT @jadande*: Crowd intensity at the Garden is wayyyy down from Game 3.
*For those not accustomed to Twitter protocol, that’s a “retweet” of someone else’s tweet (ESPN’s J.A. Adande in this case), with my thoughts added on to the front.
- It took Ray Allen only 1 minute to make a FG after his 0-for-13 Game 3, on a driving layup. Fans trying to pick it up here.
- Gasol’s 15-foot J from Gasol made it 5-4 C’s after Allen missed an open 3. But C’s players are all over the place, incl. off. glass.
- Fish is only 2 3′s from catching Jordan on the all-time postseason 3-point chart. Has yet to hit in series, after a corner miss.
- L.A. took a 12-11 lead on a tough leaner from Kobe over Allen, following Gasol’s 3rd bucket early, halfway through the 1st.
- Boston’s getting good looks, but has converted only 5-of-14 shots (35.7%), missing 4 straight to allow L.A. the 1-pt lead.
- Fisher picked up his 2nd personal, much to his surprise, on a driving Pierce. Vujacic’s in for L.A., up 1 with 4:27 in 1st.
- Pierce started 0-for-5 in the 1st in Game 3, but he’s 4-for-6 here to score 10 of Boston’s 14 points in a 14-all tie.
- Loudest ovation of the night here in Boston comes as ‘Sheed knocks Gasol onto the groud. 2 Pau FT’s then tied score at 16.
- A low scoring 1st Q ended on a Nate Robinson 3 that put Boston up 19-16. L.A. missed 6 straight FG’s to end the period.

Quick quarter summary: It was a very poor shooting first quarter for both teams, L.A. making only 7-of-20 shots and Boston 8-of-22. Pierce’s 10 led Boston, while Gasol went 3-of-6 with two freebies to lead the Lakers with eight. Bryant took four shots, making two, and added two assists before being subbed out with 1:06 to play for his first rest of the game.

60705721Second Quarter
- L.A.’s bench made its first 7 shots last game, and 9-of-11 on the night. They were 0-for-3 in the 1st, but got an and-1 layup from Shannon Brown to open the second, tying the game at 19.
- L.A. got its first bench points on a S. Brown and-1 layup, but Robinson answered with his 2nd 3 off Boston’s pine. C’s by 3.
- Rough start for Odom (3 reb but 0-for-2 FG’s, 2 fouls & 1 turnover), but Farmar/Brown had 8 total points to keep things even.
- Lakers have shot the 3 very poorly all series, are just 1-for-7 after a Brown miss, while Boston’s 2-for-6.
- Rasheed just made a fun face after picking up foul No. 3 on Gasol. Almost like Spencer when Heidi’s sister opens her mouth.
- I own Ding in 2K10. RT @KevinDing: It’s the Finals … & the sloppiness makes it look like 2 guys playing 1st game of NBA 2K10.
- Kobe just nailed back-to-back 3′s after going 1-for-7 from downtown in Game 3. He’s up to 10 pts, Pierce has 12, L.A. by 2.
- First audible sign of nervousness in the TD Garden came after Odom’s and-1 made it 39-33 (missed FT). Kobe had scored 8 straight.
- Gasol = a solid half, getting to 13 pts w/3 reb. by hitting 2 FT’s. L.A. up 5, 17.4 sec. until half. Crowd trying to stay in it.
- Gasol blocked Allen’s 3, but Garnett gathered and hit a fallaway from 17 feet to bring Boston within 3 (45-42) at the half.
- L.A. made 10-of-15 FG’s in the 2nd Q after just 7-of-20 in the 1st to jump in front of Boston. Kobe had 8, Gasol 5 of his 13.

60705785Third Quarter
- If you didn’t notice, Lamar Odom’s starting the 3rd Q for Andrew Bynum. No official news, but ‘Drew’s not on bench.
- Spero Dedes on 710 ESPN Lakers radio just said that Bynum was getting treatment & IS expected to return.
- And there he is … Bynum just came out of the tunnel to join teammates on the bench. Very good news for L.A.
Meanwhile, L.A.’s lead was cut to one on Rondo’s pull-up jumper, the fans hoping desperately for the lead Boston could never grab in Game 3′s second half.
- Fisher has nailed 2 off-balance J’s while trying to draw a foul after not scoring in the 1st half. Then Gasol’s J puts lead at 5.
- Both teams have gone cold on offense, 5 straight trips without a point, L.A. still up 5 with 6:47 to go.
- Loudest its been all night here as LA lead’s cut to 1 again, thanks to KG’s D, then layup. Crowd begging for a lead here…
- Finally, a 2nd half lead for Boston at 5 min to go in 3rd … but Kobe’s 3 swished home. Big momentum shot from Kobe.
- We def. saw that, but Perk just hit w/a PF. RT @RicBucher: Doc challenged Perk to get physical w/Pau and take him out of his game.
- Andrew Bynum’s checking back in here after coming out late from the halftime tunnel.
- Allen just had a look at a wide-open transition 3 … but missed. He’s only 2-of-8, 0-for-3 in 3′s, after his 0-for-13 Game 3.
- Back to the bench for Bynum after a very short stink … teammates appreciating him fighting through pain.
- Kobe was just 4-for-16 from 3 in Games 1-3 … but he just nailed another set of back-to-backs. He’s 5-of-6 tonight.
- Whistle was buried in the 3rd, both teams battling fiercely, as BOS cut 1 pt off L.A.’s 3-pt HT lead. 62-60 L.A., 12 min to go.
- RT @KevinDing: Kobe ends Q3 literally praying to ref G. Willard for a call. Kobe has no FTA’s but 21pts anyway. Lakers lead, 62-60.

60705666Fourth Quarter
- Odom just can’t get it going on O tonight, missing a jumper to get to 2-of-7 for 4 pts. Does have 7 rebounds, however.
- Gasol and Kobe are carrying the Lakers in a big way, with 40 of the team’s 64 points. In look of help from somewhere.
- Boston just reached its biggest lead of the game with an 8-0 run as L.A.’s offense has stalled. Celtics verrrry physical on D.
- Big Baby is 7-of-9 off Boston’s bench for 15 points to lead the C’s, including 3-for-3 in the 4th. L.A. 12 total pts off bench.
- Sheed hammered Kobe in paint, called for foul, hated call, got a T. Kobe missed the T, made next 2. 6-pt game.
- Things chipper than the Lay’s BBQ in the media room … Lil’ Nate latest to get a T for taunting Odom. 79-72 C’s, 5:39 left.
- Fisher missed the T after Robinson’s antics; Kobe had missed the T after Rasheed’s protesting. C’s lead to 9 after Rob makes.
- Rajon Rondo has been on the bench all quarter; Robinson continues to play, having scored 6 pts in the period.
- Lakers officially in trouble. 11-point C’s lead with 3:57 remaining. Haven’t been able to match Boston’s energy in 4th.
- Game 2 star Rondo, Game 3 star Garnett have been on bench all 4th Q, Rivers riding Davis/Robinson.
- L.A. still in it as Kobe has 3 FT’s after TO, can cut lead to 5 w/2:51 left. Allen missed 2 more FG’s last C’s poss., is 4-of-10.
- Correction, Kobe had just 2 FT’s there. 8-point game, as KG boards Allen’s missed 3 & Pierce hits elbow J.
- Kobe’s fallaway J made it 87-81 C’s with 1:41 left, & L.A. had a steal before Gasol threw it right back to C’s. That hurts.
- Big call there. Kobe wanted a charge, but it was a block as Pierce made an and-1 layup. 9-pt lead, 1:17 to go.
- Bryant drew Allen’s PF while taking a 3, making all 3 FT’s to again cut lead to 6. He has 30. Pierce then misses J.
- That could do it … Kobe’s pass out to Odom was stolen by Rondo, who laid in. Fish answered, lead at 6 w/22.2 left.
- LA has really missed Bynum’s defensive presence in the paint in 2nd half (just 2 min). L.A. glad he has 2 days b4 Game 5.
- Not surprising that backs-to-wall Boston won hustle stats. 20-7 second-chance pts, 54-34 points in paint (no Bynum), 41-32 reb.
- Boston, with a 96-89 win, has ensured that if the Lakers win their 16th title, it will be at STAPLES Center.
- Kobe scored 33 in the loss, and Gasol 21, while the rest of the Lakers had just 35. No Laker had more than 7 rebounds.
Check back soon for a postgame wrap up of Game 4 in what’s now a 2-2 series.

Lakers’ Bench Set Finals FG% Record

101227377001SB_LAKERS_CELTICSLost amidst Derek Fisher’s remarkable 11-point fourth quarter in L.A.’s Game 3 win on Tuesday in the Finals against Boston was a terrific performance by the Lakers’ bench on offense.

In fact, the pine unit barely missed a shot, hitting their first seven collective attempts.

Lamar Odom (5-for-5), Luke Walton (1-for-1), Shannon Brown (2-for-3) and Jordan Farmar (1-for-2) combined for only 20 points, but set an NBA Finals record (since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77) for best shooting percentage (81.8 percent) for a bench attempting at least 10 shots.

Here’s a rundown of the bench FGA’s:
1) 7:23, 1st – Walton’s turnaround jumper at the start of L.A.’s 32-8 run (12-7 Boston)
2) 4:39, 1st – Odom’s banked three-pointer (16-14 L.A.)
3) 0:27.5, 1st – Brown layup (23-17 L.A.)
4) 0:00.7, 1st – Odom’s running layup, and the foul (26-17)
5) 10:49, 2nd – Brown jump shot (31-17)
6) 9:42, 2nd – Farmar running bank shot (35-20)
7) 9:10, 2nd – Odom layup to give the Lakers their biggest lead, the bench a perfect 7-for-7 (37-20)
8) 8:26, 2nd – Brown misses a three, the first miss (37-22)
9) 7:56, 2nd – Farmar misses a three (37-24)
10) 7:37, 4th – Odom put-back bank shot when Boston had cut L.A.’s lead to one (72-69)
11) 3:45, 4th – Odom baseline driving layup (80-76)

Odom, after battling foul trouble that limited his impact in the first two games, was the star, as each of his five buckets came at key moments for the Lakers. He added five rebounds, about which he wasn’t happy (he’d far rather have 10 rebounds than five field goal makes), but still led the team with a +/- of 14, while Walton was second with a +13 in key relief minutes for Ron Artest (early foul trouble).

Finals Playoff Podcast: Kevin Ding

blog_100521_kevindingL.A.’s crucial 91-84 Game 3 victory in Boston was so full of story lines, we needed a long-form podcast to fully cover and digest the events.

To do so, we called upon Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register after L.A.’s media session on Wednesday morning, just as the Celtics took the floor to go through their own meeting with the press.

Ding – in his 11th season covering the Lakers, six of which have concluded in the NBA Finals – joined us to discuss what enabled Derek Fisher to come through in the clutch, Fisher’s relationship with Kobe Bryant (plus Kobe’s impact on the game), Andrew Bynum’s presence in the paint and maturity off the court, what to expect from Thursday’s Game 4 and more.

To listen, click play below.

Fisher Does It In The Finals … Again

60683510Derek Fisher is no stranger to hitting clutch shots in the playoffs.

Most recently, he nailed two dagger three-pointers in Game 4 the 2009 NBA Finals against Orlando, and there’s always his 0.4 game-winner against San Antonio back in 2004.

But never had Fisher been L.A.’s primary shot maker down the stretch of a critical playoff game, as he was in scoring 11 fourth quarter points while helping the Lakers preserve a hard-fought 91-84 Game 3 victory.

“He won the game for them,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, his team losing the homecourt edge it had gained with Sunday’s Game 2 win in L.A. “Derek Fisher was the difference down the stretch.”

The most crucial of several big shots from Fisher was an and-1 layup that he floated over three converging Celtics off the glass with 48.3 seconds to go, producing an 87-80 lead from which the Celtics could not come back.

“Derek had made a number of plays in the fourth quarter, contested shots and taking things to the basket, and he just got out there ahead of the field,” Jackson said of the layup. “We have this direct line principle, no one steps up, you keep going, and he saw the opening and went and made a very bold play. It was imperative that it goes in for us to win.”

After the ball dropped in, Fisher was mobbed by his teammates, to whom all of them – including Bryant – look to for guidance on the floor.

“He’s our vocal leader, the heart and soul of this team,” said Bryant. “He’s been criticized quite a bit for his age. It’s a huge thrill for him and for all of us to see him come through in these moments. Truthfully, he’s done it over and over and over again. That’s what he does.”

60683652Fisher’s fourth quarter for the ages started with a driving layup and 8:57 remaining to put the Lakers up three after Boston had cut a 12-point halftime lead down to just one. After Lamar Odom’s put-back layup, L.A.’s point guard then scored six straight points for the Lakers at 6:20, 5:33 and 4:33 left in the fourth, keeping the Purple and Gold narrowly in front as the Celtics’ defense focused intently upon Kobe Bryant.

“We saw some things we could accomplish by playing a little two-man game between Kobe and myself,” Fisher explained. “When Kobe sets a screen, his man is going to be very reluctant to help off of him, so it allows somebody else to get into the interior of their defense, and a couple time I made a pass or two, and a few other times I was able to knock down shots.”

Rivers agreed, stating that “the reason a lot of the other guys are open is because Kobe Bryant’s on the floor.” With the attention No. 24 mandated, he made only 1-of-6 fourth quarter attempts, though the make was a big one with 1:41 left in the contest to put L.A. up four. Bryant finished with a team-high 29 points (including 8-of-8 free throws) on 10-of-29 shooting.

When the final whistle blew, Bryant and the rest of his teammates went directly over to their co-captain for a round of hugs, back-taps, daps and high fives.

That, right there, is why Fisher said he plays the game.

“It’s tough to put it into words,” he explained. “I got a little emotional … I love what I do. I love helping my team win. To come through tonight, again, for this team, 14 years in after so many great moments, it’s always quite surreal.”

Most notably after the and-1 layup.

“To see Pau’s reaction and my teammates’ reactions, that’s why those moments feel so good to me,” Fisher concluded.

Of course, there were other key plays made down the stretch from Fisher’s teammates. They including a tough turnaround bank shot from Gasol with 2:17 to play, critical forced turnovers from both Ron Artest and Bryant in the final moments, two game-sealing free throws from Sasha Vujacic (who played only 19 seconds) and two buckets Odom, who scored 12 points with five boards off the bench, his impact shown by his game-high +16 in plus/minus.

Literally hours earlier in a long, tight contest, Boston came crashing out of the gates, scoring the first six points in a raucous TD Garden. The Celtics lead by as many as seven before the Lakers rolled off an impressive 32-8 run surrounding the first quarter break to lead by as many as 17, thanks in part to a bench that opened the game 7-for-7.

Ray Allen inexplicably failed to make even a single one of his 13 field goal attempts, one short of the NBA record for misses without a make (Dennis Johnson, 1978), while Paul Pierce was just 5-for-12 for 15 points, battling foul trouble throughout. Kevin Garnett carried Boston’s offense with 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including those first six points of the contest, after struggling in Games 1 and 2.

The Celtics cut the halftime lead in half after three, but couldn’t get any closer than one point (on multiple occasions) as the Lakers held off a furious charge.

They knew they could thank Derek Fisher for that.

Until Thursday’s Game 4, your numbers:

0 Field goals made by Ray Allen, despite 13 attempts (eight from three-point range) just a game after he set an NBA Finals record for made threes (8). His only two points came at the foul line.

11 Fourth quarter points for Derek Fisher, who was entirely instrumental to the victory. He finished with 16 points, making 5-of-7 shots in the fourth after hitting only 1-of-5 in the first three quarter.

12 Fastbreak points for the Celtics, more than L.A. had hoped for, but almost canceled out by eight from the Lakers.

43 Rebounds for the Lakers, eight more than Boston in the always-crucial battle.

87.5 L.A.’s free throw percentage, with a 21-of-24 conversion rate, including 6-of-7 in the fourth quarter.

Lakers 91, Celtics 84: Finals Game 3 Diary

60682621Lakers – Celtics Gameday Page
After a tough home loss in Game 2, the Lakers looked to regain home court advantage while in Boston for Game 3. Here’s our running diary from the contest, here to make sure you don’t miss a thing:

Lakers: Adam Morrison
Celtics: Tony Gaffney

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Game 3 Video Preview
Pinch hitting for assistant coach Frank Hamblen was fellow assistant Jim Cleamons, who pointed out the major points of emphasis for L.A. – such as containing Boston’s transition game – after the team’s Tuesday shootaround.

60682497First Quarter
9:54 A frenetic first two minutes had the fans going wild in the TD Garden as a 6-0 Kevin Garnett run kicked things off, including a pretty up-and-under layup, an alley-oop dunk and a finger roll. Artest stopped the early bleeding with a put-back layup off Bynum’s missed dunk attempt, but promptly picked up two personals to send Luke Walton into the game far earlier than he’d entered all playoffs.

6:13 The Lakers gradually settled in, getting a turnaround J from Walton and two Kobe free throws to get within three points. Perkins was then hit with his second personal foul – bringing Rasheed Wallace and Lamar Odom into the game – before Gasol hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it 12-10 Celtics. First major crisis = averted by L.A.

4:00 Odom marked his entrance into the game with a banked three – that’s one way to get it going – but Garnett countered with his fifth field goal conversion in as many attempts, helping make up for 0-for-4 starts from both Pierce and Allen.

0:00.7 A fantastic end to the quarter from the Lakers concluded in kind, as a streaking Odom caught Fisher’s 50-foot pass before laying it in, plus the foul, just before the buzzer sounded. That gave L.A. a 26-17 lead, as they finished the quarter on a 19-4 run.

60682558Second Quarter
10:30 L.A. slowed down not a bit to start the second, getting an and-1 layup from Bryant and Shannon Brown’s jumper to take a 31-17 lead as the crowd struggled to find anything about which to cheer.

7:14 Odom hit his third shot in as many attempts to give the Lakers a 17-point lead as L.A. continued to shine on defense, limiting Boston almost exclusively to long jumpers. Meanwhile, the bench had made all seven of its shots, but when Bryant went to the bench, the Lakers’ offense suddenly stalled, Brown and Farmar missing consecutive jumpers, as Boston scored four straight. That brought Bryant and Fisher quickly back into the game with the Lakers up 37-24.

5:00 Finally, the Celtics found some offense, running off nine straight points before Bynum scored from their paint at the other end. A Bryant to Gasol alley-oop followed, to put L.A.’s lead back at 12 after a momentary scare. Boston’s run included an absolute no-no as the Laker coaches saw things … an uncontested fastbreak layup for Rondo. Assistant coach Frank Hamblen would probably rather wear a kelly green shirt around town than see that (OK maybe not).

1:52 Great play from Kobe, who snatched the ball out of KG’s hands on a defensive board, then fed Bynum for an and-1 layup while falling out of bounds. Bryant had 12 points with six boards and three dimes at that point, with L.A. still up 11. Pierce countered with two free throws, but Kobe responded in turn by somehow dropping a left-handed runner over Perkins’s outstretched hands. The half closed with L.A. leading 52-40, on strength of a massive 32-8 run that surrounded the first quarter break, led by Kobe’s 16 points, and 15 points off the bench.

60682403Third Quarter
11:00 While Gasol hit a 17-footer for the first bucket of the second half, Garnett answered with a baseline jumper to get to a game-high 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Terrific stuff on O from KG, who struggled considerably in L.A. particularly in Game 2 (though in part due to foul trouble).

3:45 The Lakers’ offense stalled considerably for a 4-minute stretch without a field goal until Bryant finally got back-to-back shots to go, keeping the lead at nine. Kobe had been working considerably hard for all of his shots, having made 8-of-20 to that point.

0:24.9 As the Lakers continued to struggle to find open shots, particularly in the paint as Boston’s physical defense stepped up considerably, Gasol hit a 17-foot jumper to put L.A. up 67-61 heading into the fourth, their 12-point halftime lead cut in half. The momentum had swung in Boston’s direction, the crowd patiently awaiting further explosion, to make it a very difficult task for the Lakers to hold on.

60682445Fourth Quarter
9:45 The crowd was officially all the way back after Rondo’s transition layup followed another missed Kobe 3, his fifth of the game with just one make. The Purple and Gold were getting almost nothing inside, continually chucking shots from the perimeter as layups from Big Baby Davis and then Rondo cut the lead to only one (68-67).

5:40 It wasn’t Bryant, Gasol, Bynum or Odom that stepped up on offense, but Fisher, who twice drove around the Celtics defense to finish difficult shots heading to the rim. The second put L.A. up 74-70, as Boston took a full time out with possession for the Lakers.

2:17 Fisher continued his clutch stretch by hitting two more shots (eight points in the quarter) to keep the Lakers afloat until Gasol’s tough turnaround shot from the left block went in off glass and made it an 82-78 lead for the road team. L.A. certainly needed the extra offense as Bryant struggled to get shots to fall.

1:40 Of course, that wasn’t going to keep Bryant from firing. Undeterred, he nailed a tough turnaround over Allen to put L.A. up 84-80, the shot coming from near the spot on the floor that won L.A. the Jan. 31st game last time the Lakers were in Beantown.

0:48.0 Fittingly, Fisher nailed a ridiculous and-1 layup to seal a road victory for the Lakers. It was his fifth field goal of a fourth quarter he entered making only 1-of-5 shots, giving him 11 of his 16 points in a quarter for the ages. The Lakers also came up big on defense, getting crucial stops in the final minutes including a Kobe-Bryant-caused turnover on Garnett. Sasha Vujacic also made his contribution, checking in and immediately getting fouled before making two free throws with 23 seconds left. Bryant would add two free throws and Pierce a meaningless layup in what was a 91-84 final, the Lakers reclaiming home court advantage and thrusting control of the series right out of Boston’s grasp.

Video Preview: Finals Game 3

Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons joined us to discuss L.A.’s approach to Game 3 of the NBA Finals in Boston.

He detailed the team’s emphasis on matching up with Boston in transition, ensuring fewer open looks for Ray Allen, pounding the ball inside particularily early and late in the game and getting more production out of Lamar Odom.