The Los Angeles Lakers moved to the brink of their 15th NBA Championship on Thursday, capitalizing on the long-range shooting of Derek Fisher to defeat the Orlando Magic 99-91 in overtime.
Fisher hit a 25-foot three-point shot with 4.6 seconds left in regulation and then nailed a 27-footer with just over 30 seconds left in overtime to give the Lakers a 94-91 lead.
Pau Gasol scored the remaining five points to seal the win.
“On a championship run you’re going to have moments where you just make big plays, and tonight was one of them,” said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who scored 32 points. “The guys stepped up. That’s what the journey is about.”
The Lakers lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can wrap up their first title since 2002 with a victory tomorrow in Orlando.
Bryant led the Lakers with 32 points but the 11-times All Star and last year’s Most Valuable Player was not at his best, hitting only 11 of 31 shots. Gasol and Trevor Ariza each added 16 for Los Angeles.
The Lakers got out of jail when Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard missed two free throws with 11.1 seconds left in regulation with the Magic leading 87-84.
Had he made even one of the free throws, the Magic would likely have leveled the series at 2-2 and been in the hunt for their first title.
Howard misfired on eight of his 14 free-throw attempts.
After a time out the Lakers worked the ball upcourt and found Fisher open on the wing, and the veteran left-hander calmly sank the game-tying, three-pointer.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said his decision not to foul the Lakers when they were bringing the ball upcourt in the waning seconds of regulation “will haunt me forever.”
“We gave him so much space to shoot the ball,” he said of Fisher’s game-tying shot. “We played like we were trying to prevent the lay up. We did a good job, we denied Bryant the ball, and then we just didn’t play Derek Fisher, just didn’t guard him.”
Hedo Turkoglu paced the Magic with 25 points, while Howard added 16 points and 21 rebounds. Orlando committed 17 turnovers and hit only 22 of 37 attempts from the free-throw line.
“We had it but just kind of slipped away because of our stupidness,” Turkoglu said. “We can’t be really down on ourselves, no matter what. Win or lose tonight, we have to win the game on Sunday.”
Ariza scored 13 in the third quarter when the Lakers recovered from a 12-point deficit to take a four-point lead into the final frame.
The Magic went down by six in the final quarter, silencing the crowd of more than 17,000 at the Amway Arena, before rallying down the stretch.
Orlando are now hoping to become the first team to win the championship after facing a 3-1 deficit.
“There’s no need for us to hold our heads down,” Howard said. “We were always fighting and will believe until there’s no more games to be played. We’ve been in some tough situations, but as a team we’ve always found a way to come back.”
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