ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—Derek Fisher’s quick hands capped a comeback victory that his strong shooting started.
“Rod is one of the best ball-handlers in history, but because we had a foul to give, I just went for it,” Fisher said.
Fisher also scored 15 points—his most since opening night—with 12 coming in a crucial run that rallied the Lakers from an 18-point deficit. He hit two 3-pointers in the comeback, almost all of which came with the second unit on the floor.
“It was a pleasure to watch that group move the ball,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Shaquille O’Neal checked back in with 5:56 remaining after sitting out since the beginning of the quarter, and his layup 21 seconds later put the Lakers ahead 88-87—their first lead since 31-30.
O’Neal had 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
“This is a win we should not be proud of,” O’Neal said. “We won by two, but we should’ve beat this team by 20 or 30.”
Los Angeles tied it at 96 with 11.7 seconds remaining on Rick Fox’s 3-pointer. His only field goal of the game came off a broken play that was drawn up for Fisher.
“At that point, you just execute the play and do what you’ve done for 13 years—take good shots,” said Fox, who played his seventh game since returning from surgery on a tendon in his left foot.
Strickland took the ensuing inbounds pass high on the right wing, only to have Fisher jar it loose.
“Rod wanted a foul, but I just kept playing, going after it,” said Fisher, who had three steals. “At that point of a game, the refs usually let you play a little bit.”
Fisher beat Strickland to the ball in the backcourt, waited a moment and hit Payton on the bounce for the winning shot. Gordan Giricek was called for goaltending, but the shot most likely was going in anyway.
“It was disappointing because we had them on the ropes,” said Strickland, blaming himself for the turnover. “We had them and just let it slip away.”
Payton finished with 18 points, and Kareem Rush added 17 after missing two games with a sprained ankle.
Giricek missed a shot at the buzzer with Payton draped all over him, and the Magic lost for the sixth straight time. The play was designed for Tracy McGrady, and he beat his man to the top of the key, but Horace Grant alertly moved away from guarding the inbounds pass to deny Orlando’s star the ball.
Giricek also had a crucial backcourt violation with 28.4 seconds left, one of three Magic turnovers in the final 52.8 seconds.
“Horrible execution, and it can cost you,” said McGrady, who had four turnovers, as did Strickland.
McGrady had 35 points, six rebounds and six assists in his return after a two-game absence because of back spasms. He played 45 minutes, his only rest coming when he reinjured his back late in the second quarter.
Juwan Howard scored six of his 18 points in the final 2:28, with three straight turnaround jumpers giving Orlando a 96-93 lead. Strickland came off the bench for 13 points and five assists.
The Magic shot 51 percent despite a 6-for-18 start. But their 18-point lead was the largest they’ve blown in a loss this season.
“We definitely show signs of being soft at times,” McGrady said. “Each individual has to take his responsibility of stepping up and being tough. We can talk about it and tell everyone what we expect from them, but you have to want to do it.”
McGrady reinjured his back with 2:49 left before halftime when he landed awkwardly going for an offensive rebound. He gingerly walked to the locker room, but returned to make his first four shots of the third quarter.
That put the Magic ahead by 11, and they seized a 79-61 lead with 1:58 left in the period on Strickland’s jumper.
But Fisher hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, then followed withanother long jumper. That kicked off a 25-8 rally to bring Los Angeles back.
The game was a sellout, the Magic’s third of the season. … All 16 games the Lakers have played in Orlando were sellouts. … The Magic’s record against the Lakers fell to 7-23, their worst against any franchise. … Stanislav Medvedenko got a technical foul midway through the first quarter when he argued with official Bernie Fryer over drawing two fouls in a span of 33 seconds. … Fox and Andrew DeClercq drew double technicals following Fox’shard foul midway through the third quarter.