Now onto the Lakers. First of all, Derek Fisher. I find it amusing that every year in January there are discussions involving his age and deteriorating play at the point guard, but in June it is nothing but comments on his clutch abilities and his savvy in the NBA Finals. In a game that featured Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Pau Gasol, and Rajon Rondo, Derek Fisher decided this game. The point guard from Little Rock, Arkansas was more valuable than any of the blue-chip prospects or high school phenoms. The Lakers do not win this game without Derek Fisher’s contributions in the fourth. Period.
As a life-long Derek Fisher fan, nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing this man come up big game after game in the post-season. His 11 points in the fourth quarter allowed the Lakers to keep their lead, and ultimately seal the deal on Boston’s come-back attempts. It doesn’t matter who he’s playing or what is stacked against him, when there is a big game on the line Derek Fisher delivers time and time again.
On the Lakers side there were several supporting players last night who deserved plenty of credit. First of all, Andrew Bynum. If there is one guy who isn’t getting enough credit so far in this NBA Finals it’s Bynum. Bum knee and all, the Lakers young center is using his size and strength to overpower a shorter, and sometimes more fragile Boston frontcourt. However, as great as he has played so far in this series the most telling sign from him came from his reactions on the bench.
Late in the fourth quarter of Game 3, when the game was anything but decided, Bynum was on the sideline jumping and cheering his team on, understanding that he didn’t have to be in the game to make a difference. This is something you love to see from anyone, but when you get that energy and emotion from a starting center who might be riffed they’re not closing the game on the floor you must give him some credit.
Another strong supporting cast member for the Lakers last night was Luke Walton. After Artest picked up two early fouls Walton checked in early and played above average basketball for head coach Phil Jackson. Walton, like Fisher, often gets a bad rep amongst fans and media members alike who feel like he isn’t contributing enough on the floor. Also, much like Fisher, I have been a Luke Walton fan for years. Walton is the epitome of controlled offense, most of the time. While he has moments where he makes dumb passes or takes poor shots, for the great majority of the time he works the offense and turns down good shots to get his teammates great shots.
Walton put forth only 13 minutes on the court last night, and didn’t light up the box score by any means. But he played hard, aggressive defense on Pierce and gave an all-out effort that any coach would be proud of. When players step up for their down teammates it can define a team, and in my opinion Luke Walton is the definition of a team basketball player.