Fisher's Late 3 Pushes Lakers Past Mavericks 73-70
Derek Fisher spent the last year wearing more suits than sweats while negotiating the union's labor deal, and he realizes his peak playing days are probably past.
But Kobe Bryant borrows a term from former coach Phil Jackson to describe anybody who doubts what the Lakers' veteran point guard can do in the clutch.
"That's inherently idiotic," he said.
Fisher hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds to play and Los Angeles emerged from a dismal offensive game by both teams with a 73-70 victory over the Mavericks on Monday night, snapping Dallas' five-game winning streak.
Vince Carter missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the defending champion Mavericks, who swept Los Angeles out of the second round of the postseason last spring, ending the Lakers' bid for a three-peat.
Neither team looked much like a championship contender in their first meeting since, with 3½ miserable offensive quarters before the exciting finish keyed by Fisher, who added another line to an overflowing list of late-game heroics.
"This is what I do," Fisher said. "When opportunities like that present themselves, I'm confident in my ability to step up and make the right play. I've been fortunate in my career to come up with some of those big plays."
Fisher scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, leading a 10-0 run midway through the period before the Mavericks rallied to tie it on Jason Terry's running jumper at the top of the key with 9.9 seconds left.
Bryant, whose streak of four straight 40-point games ended with just 14 against the Mavs, drew the Dallas defense before passing to Fisher. The veteran point guard calmly drilled a long 3-pointer from the wing.
"We made the decision to get the ball out of Bryant's hands, and we just didn't get to (Fisher) in time," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "Our full intention was to rotate to him, but he got the shot off quick and he shot it high, so we couldn't get to it. But he made a great shot. In that situation, you've got to live with that decision. And it's tough."
Carter's desperation try was far off, and the Lakers celebrated their ninth consecutive home victory since Christmas.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points for the Mavericks, but committed a crucial traveling violation with 38 seconds left in their first loss since January 5. Lamar Odom scored 10 points in his return to Staples Center, where he won two championships before the Lakers abruptly traded him to Dallas last month.
Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won six of seven overall despite barely scoring 70 points — the franchise low in the shot-clock era, set in November 2002.
Bryant had scored at least 40 points in each of his past four games, but the NBA's leading scorer didn't even score until midway through the second quarter.
"I like the fact that if we don't score, we can still win games," said Mike Brown, the Lakers' defense-minded new coach. "Hopefully our guys understand that we can win ugly games, we can win pretty games, we can win high-tempo games. However you want to bring it, we can get down that way."
Two elite NBA franchises might have showed the strain of the NBA's compacted schedule, or the excitement of the playoff rematch — or maybe they both just stunk.
Airballs, turnovers and missed assignments dominated play, which included a seven-point third quarter by the Lakers and 35 percent shooting by the Mavericks, who extended their string of exceptional defensive performances.
Pau Gasol, whose struggles in last year's playoff series played a huge role in the Lakers' losses, had just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, while Dallas' Jason Kidd went 0 for 8 on 3-pointers and Terry was 2 for 9 from the field until his tying basket.
"Man, we're setting records — both ways, probably," Kidd said. "I thought we were competing at both ends, but sometimes you've got to make shots in this league, and we just couldn't do it tonight. It was one of those NFC kind of games — just hand off the ball and run. It was just an ugly game."
At least the Lakers have their first chance to recover from the lockout-compacted NBA schedule: After matching the league high with 15 games in 23 days, Los Angeles has consecutive days off for the first time this season before Thursday's game at Miami.
Odom said it was "surreal" to be in the visitors' locker room at Staples Center, his home for the past seven seasons. He got a lengthy standing ovation when he entered the game midway through the first quarter, and the Lakers played a video tribute on the scoreboard.
"Actually, it gave me energy," Odom said. "I'm still trying to get my rhythm back. I'm still getting in shape, and once I get there, then I'll be able to help this team. In order for me to succeed, you have to move on, no matter what, and I plan on succeeding in this next chapter of my life."