As BDL's fearless leader wrote last night, it was "kinda sweet" to watch Derek Fisher(notes) well up during his interview with Doris Burke after his Los Angeles Lakers scored a 91-84 Game 3 win over the Boston Celtics to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals. It's always compelling when competitors let their guard down just moments removed from the heat of battle, and Fisher's near-tears of joy, combined with his declaration of love for his profession, his organization and his teammates, made for a touching moment.
But there was a reason why Doris sidled up to D-Fish in the first place - the 14-year veteran was sharper than a swagger dagger in the fourth quarter, shooting 5-of-7 from the field to score 11 of his 16 points in the final frame, culminating in a coast-to-coast sprint that planted a stake in the heart of the Celtics' chances.
With Boston down 84-80 and a minute left in the contest, Game 2 hero Ray Allen(notes) clanged his 13th field-goal attempt and eighth three-pointer - really, the overripe cherry on top of the poop sundae that was his night - and the Lakers' 35-year-old point guard came down with the rebound. He then looked up the court, saw all five Celtics loaded onto the right-hand side of the court and took off like a shot down the open seam on the left.
After beating Kevin Garnett(notes) at midcourt, Fisher streaked to the hoop, finishing with a layup while getting walloped by Garnett and Glen Davis(notes). The hoop and the harm gave the Lakers a seven-point lead that would stand up as the margin of victory at the final buzzer.
That Fisher was cool under pressure shouldn't come as too big a shock. After all, this is the guy that iced the San Antonio Spurs like he was holding a Smirnoff back in 2004, returned from his ailing daughter's emergency eye surgery to play hero for the Utah Jazz and put away the Golden State Warriors in 2007, and stuck big threes late in Game 4 to deflate the Orlando Magic in last year's Finals. He's earned a reputation for big-game success, even if it sometimes infuriates us blogger types to be asked to look past such clear signs of decline as a 38 percent mark from the field and 9.3 Player Efficiency Rating during the regular season. He was supposed to get murdered by every point guard he faced this postseason - Russell Westbrook(notes), Deron Williams(notes), Steve Nash(notes) and now Rajon Rondo(notes) - and yet here he is. Pushing. Grinding. Winning.
It might not have been a buzzer-beating three or a dramatic, emotional return, but seeing and seizing the opportunity to turn out the Celtics' lights is exactly the kind of play we should expect Derek Fisher to make by now. Let the other guys have the numbers and the hyperbole; Fisher's team won. Same as it ever was.