Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fisher Mops Up for Lakers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fisher Mops Up for Lakers

Article excerpt

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- In high school, Derek Fisher was on the floor so often diving for loose balls that he earned the nickname "The Mop."

Fisher cleaned up for the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, making key defensive plays in the closing seconds of their 101-100 victory over the Houston Rockets in the opener of the first-round Western Conference series.

His biggest play may have been a head-first dive onto the floor to grab a loose ball from Scottie Pippen with seven seconds remaining and Houston ahead by one point.

"I enjoy it. It gets my blood boiling," Fisher said of his oncourt wrestling. "I don't really think I'm playing that hard or playing that well if I don't get down there and dive on the loose balls."

He also scored 20 points, one off his career best, and hit four 3-pointers while picking up an assortment of scrapes and bruises.

"If he hadn't had the type of game he had, we would've lost," Glen Rice of the Lakers said. "Offensively, he was explosive. Defensively, he was on every loose ball, stealing the ball from people.

"You've got to have guys like Derek Fisher, guys that are willing to get down there no matter what it takes, and get scratched up every now and then and ignite the defense."

It was the kind of performance Fisher needed to make everyone forget the flashiness of ex-Laker Nick Van Exel and the steady shooting of Derek Harper, two veteran point guards whom Fisher wasn't supposed to be ahead of in the lineup.

"It gave my teammates and my coaching staff even more confidence that in big-game situations, I'm capable of stepping up and contributing," he said. "Pretty much my entire athletic career, I've always had to prove that I was capable of playing with the best guys on the floor."

Fisher took some of the Rockets by surprise, including Pippen.

"He played much better than we anticipated, much better than we wanted him to play," Pippen said. …

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