Fisher Comes Up Big When It Counts

In the aftermath of the Lakers' Game 1 victory in the Western Conference Finals over the Nuggets, one could easily argue that Denver should have won that game. Several of L.A.'s key players were dominated for large stretches of the game by their counterparts, and Denver did plenty right for most of the game's 48 minutes. But while the majority of the Lakers not named Kobe Bryant disappeared for most of the evening, they came up big when it mattered most, and made key contributions down the stretch.

Derek Fisher, whose post-season habit of abusing his point guard status by creating forced shots for himself was beginning to wear thin with Lakers fans, was particularly important to the Lakers in their Game 1 victory.

Fisher's shooting percentage has been way down through the playoffs, but it's not for lack of attempts -- it's been largely due to poor shot selection. Fisher tends to dribble down the court, then dribble down the shot clock, before hoisting up a contested jumper. And that's if he even waits for the shot clock to get going -- there are plenty of times where he pulls the trigger on the dreaded PUJIT (Pull Up Jumper In Transition), which, if it misses, provides a long rebound and an easy transition opportunity for the opposing team.

Fisher's first six shot attempts of the game mostly followed this script. But the seventh was huge: a wide open three-pointer in the corner, on a pass from Kobe Bryant (after he drew the defenders) that Fisher nailed at the halftime buzzer, to give the Lakers the lead and a ton of momentum after falling behind by as many as 13 early on. Fisher finished the game 5-7 after his slow start, and made a driving baseline layup with the shot clock winding down, and a clutch three-pointer with 2:30 to play that were both key buckets in the Lakers' Game 1 victory.

In the series against Houston, when there were plenty of calls for Phil Jackson to bench Fisher because of the torching he was receiving at the hands of Aaron Brooks, Phil stuck with his veteran player. Perhaps that confidence he showed in Fisher was one of the reasons he was able to keep his composure after the 0-for-6 start, and be a key component in the Lakers' come-from-behind victory.

"Big shots. Big shots," Kobe Bryant said of Fisher's performance. "He’s the ultimate professional. It’s hard for guys that when they don’t get a lot of touches or called upon to make a lot of plays or not rhythm and all of a sudden get that ball in the corner and knock it down like they’ve been in rhythm all game. That’s very, very tough to do. Your accuracy, your efficiency has to be through the roof to get that one shot and nail it. He’s been doing that his whole career."

Lakers fans should back off of Fisher a little bit after that strong second half performance in Game 1. Now that Fisher is no longer getting burned by trying to guard a speedster like Brooks, if he would just stop taking those PUJITs, it's likely that any complaints surrounding his play would be silenced altogether.

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