In Game 4 of the NBA finals, Fisher may have topped it.
Fisher hit two key 3-pointers—one with 4.6 seconds left in regulation, the other with 31.3 seconds to go in overtime—as the Los Angeles Lakers moved within one win of their 15th championship by beating the Orlando Magic 99-91 on Thursday night to open a 3-1 series lead.
The 34-year-old Fisher, in his second stint with the Lakers after stops in Golden State and Utah, was best known for his turnaround fling with 0.4 seconds left in the 2004 playoffs against San Antonio. He’s got two more shots that rank right with it.
“Maybe 100, 101, something like that,” the 13-year-veteran joked. “No, I mean, obviously, it’s at the top. You know, even greater than 0.4 because I feel like we’re as close as possible to what our end goal is.”
The Lakers can wrap up their first title since 2002 on Sunday in Game 5. If necessary, Games 6 and 7 would be back in Los Angeles at Staples Center.
The only way the Lakers, who overcame a 12-point halftime deficit in Game 4 and improved to 7-0 after a playoff loss, can be denied a crown is if they lose three straight.
That hasn’t happened all season.
The Magic, commandos of the comeback in the postseason, need a rally for the ages. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the finals.
Howard was magnificent everywhere but at the free-throw line. He scored 16 points with 21 rebounds and a finals-record nine blocks. But he made just 6 of 14 foul shots, and it was his two crucial misses with 11.1 seconds to go in regulation that doomed the Magic.
Orlando missed 15 free throws.
“I just missed them,” Howard said. “I’ve been working on my free throws. They just weren’t falling tonight.”
“I just sensed that was the dagger,” Fisher said. “That was the one that would put us in a position to close out the game—even though the game wasn’t over.”
Before the first of his two big 3s, Fisher had missed his first five.
“He’s been there before,” said Kobe Bryant(notes), who had 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. “He has been there and done that. That’s Derek. He just has supreme confidence and I think those shots at the end of the game are actually easier for him than the other ones.”
Bryant scored two quick baskets in the overtime, and Howard tied it when he split two free throws with 1:27 remaining.
As he retreated down court and Orlando called a timeout, the Lakers bench stormed onto the court and surrounded the popular Fisher, who felt obliged to come through.
“I have a responsibility to my team that if I’m going to be on the floor, then I have to make a difference,” he said. “None of us can continue to expect that Kobe is going to save us.”
“It’s character,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, a victory away from a record 10th NBA championship ring. “We’ve always said the character has got to be in players if they are going to be great players. You just can’t draft it.”
With his team up by three at the end of regulation, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy felt it was too early to foul the Lakers. With his team missing free throws, he didn’t want to get into a foul-shooting contest.
Later, he regretted the decision.
“That one will haunt me forever,” he said.
The Lakers spent the first half in foul trouble, and left the floor at halftime down 49-37.
They came back a different team.
“On a championship run, you’re going to have moments where you make big plays,” Bryant said. “And tonight was one of them.”