After a much-needed rest, Derek Fisher and the Lakers came out of the All-Star break scorching and capped a perfect week with a big win over the Miami Heat on Sunday.
Derek and the Lakers won three straight to start the second half (Getty Images).
Los Angeles went three-for-three on their home court, defeating the Timberwolves, Kings and Heat in a six-day span to push their record to 23-14. In the process they reclaimed their place at the top of the Pacific Division and moved into the thick of the hunt for a top seed in the Western Conference.
"The light finally went off that we believe we can win it," Derek told ESPN's JA Adande after Sunday's win over Miami.
D-Fish played a role in each of the games, chipping in key points, timely rebounds and clutch assists to each win. Over the course of the week, No. 2 averaged 22.7 minutes per game and made 7 of the 12 shots he took.
LA began the week last Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves a team that had pulled off an upset of the Clippers on the same floor just one night earlier. But the Lakers prohibited Minnesota from completing a Staples sweep, defeating the Wolves soundly, 100-85. Derek pitched in seven points on 3-of-5 from the field and added three rebounds, three assists and a steal in 20 minutes.
Los Angeles jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on the way to the win. D-Fish helped to spark the rally in the first as the Lakers broke a 6-6 tie with a 9-0 run to the lead, which they never relinquished.
Derek grabbed the first of his three rebounds and got the first of his three assists simultaneously with just under seven minutes to go in the first, when he grabbed the long rebound off a Ricky Rubio miss and started a fast break, which Kobe Bryant quickly finished to put LA in front 13-6.
Fish got it done on both ends against the Wolves (Getty Images).
The score prompted a Minnesota timeout and right out of it, D-Fish struck again, stripping Wolves big man Nikola Pekovic. Moments later, Derek knocked down his first jumper of the night to make it 15-6.
Minnesota broke the Lakers run with a Wesley Johnson three, but No. 2 answered the score when Bryant found him cutting for a layup to make it 17-9. Moments later, Fish added his second dime of the night, with a dish to Andrew Bynum, who made it 19-9 LA. They led 26-18 after one.
LA maintained a lead in that range for the rest of the half and went into the break ahead by six. They tacked on to that edge and put the game away in the third with an efficient offense and incredible defense, outscoring Minnesota 33-15 in the third. Derek made one of his two shots in the frame, a trey with 5:17 remaining to push the Lakers lead to 14. The successful third gave Fish most of the fourth quarter to rest as Los Angeles cruised to the win.
Two nights later, LA was back on the Staples Center floor hosting the Kings and Fish contributed one of his most versatile efforts of the season.
In 29 minutes of play, he tallied six points, seven assists, four rebounds and one block. he knocked down all three of his shot attempts, an essential part to the Lakers 115-107 victory. The game marked LA's highest-scoring performance of the season and extended their home winning-streak to seven games.
"Every game is big for us right now because we have an opportunity to get better each time we step out on the floor and we have a ways to go before we be the team we want to be, so we're taking every game seriously," Derek said. "We're growing in our ability to take that set or play call and then just use our instincts from there, and that's helped us a lot in the last few weeks."
Derek again made his presence felt in the first with some early dimes. First he lobbed the ball to Andrew Bynum, who nailed a hook shot. Minutes later, Fish found his favorite target again, hitting Bynum for the slam dunk. The bucket put the Lakers up by four.
No. 2's perfection from the field began in the second, as he nailed an 18-foot jumper to push the Laker lead to seven. He added his third assist of the night late in the half, setting up Metta World Peace for a triple to make it 60-51. Los Angeles headed into halftime leading the Kings 65-58.
The game took a physical turn in the second half. Moments after registering his first block of the night Derek, who had been going back and forth with the Kings' Isiah Thomas, was assessed a technical foul after arguing a call. Thomas had struck Derek in the head and then pulled him down to the ground but no foul was given, much to Fish's chagrin.
Another full team effort was needed to drop the Kings (Getty Images).
But Derek quickly put the play behind him, answering with another pass to Bynum, who finished with a slam dunk to make it 75-63. Moments later, with the lead trimmed back to single digits, No. 2 assisted back-to-back Lakers' layups by Bynum and World Peace. From there, Los Angeles jumped out to an 18-point lead heading into the final 12 minutes of the game.
Fish checked in for Steve Blake with 7:43 left to play and made his presence known immediately, hitting a 16-foot pull-up to make it 96-85, followed by a 21-foot jumper to make it 98-87.
An 8-3 run had the Kings thinking comeback late, but Derek grabbed a defensive rebound and turned it into an offensive opportunity, hitting World Peace for the layup to push the LA lead back to 105-97. Los Angeles followed with a 5-0 run to seal the victory.
WITHSTANDING THE HEAT
The Lakers took their high scoring confidence into their next match-up against a tough Miami Heat team.
Derek followed up his offensive performance with four points and one assist, shooting a perfect 2-for-2 from the foul line as LA took out Miami 93-83. With their victory over the Heat, the Lakers have now won 17 of their last 18 home games.
The win over Miami was one of LA's biggest of the year (Getty Images).
Los Angeles never trailed Miami in the last 44 minutes of the game. The Lakers win also snaps a four-game losing streak Fish and his teammates had faced going against Dwyane Wade and the Heat. After the win, Fish gave credit to his teammates for stepping up when the Lakers needed to after the break.
"It's that simple," he told ESPN.com. "It was important for us [as a] group to turn the mirror on ourselves. Regardless of what Coach is doing or not doing, agree, disagree, rotation, whatever it is, we have to block that out and make a decision that with this group of guys, what are we going to do?
"Are we going to maximize it and get the most out of it, or are we going to flounder around, win a game, lose a game and just flop around through the season? As a group, we all just made a decision to block out any outside distraction of any kind and buy in as a group."
Derek and the Lakers will have to prove they can win away from the Staples Center, as they begin a three-game road trip by stopping in Detroit to take on the Pistons Tuesday night. Tip-off is set for 4:30 PST.