It wasn't a must-win by any stretch, but Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers was one Derek Fisher and the Lakers badly wanted to win.
It was the second meeting between the two teams this season and the Lakers were seeking to simultaneously snap a three-game losing streak and get the Clippers back for a 102-94 loss back on January 14.
Behind hot shooting, including three momentum-swinging 3-pointers from D-Fish, the Lakers exacted that small bit of revenge and ended their losing streak with a 96-91 win over their Staples Center roommates on Wednesday.
Derek scored 11 points to help the Lakers beat the Clips on Wednesday (Getty Images).
The two teams went punch-for-punch offensively in the opening quarter, scoring a total of 52 points in the first quarter. Derek started the game off by gaining possession after the jumpball brawl between Andrew Bynum and DeAndre Jordan. Fish grabbed a defensive rebound eight minutes in after Blake Griffin missed a jumper.
Derek's rebound led to a Bynum layup, which cut an early Laker deficit to six. Fish was at it again four minutes later, grabbing the rebound and assisting Bynum on a dunk at the other end, once again cutting the Clippers lead to six. After one, the home team trailed by just two to the "visiting" Clippers.
No. 2 was kept mostly off the scoreboard in the first half, but as he has done so many times before, Fish made his only bucket of the half at a crucial moment. The Lakers trailed by five late in the fourth when Derek buried a trey. The triple, with 8.4 seconds left, moved the Lakers to within two points of the lead at the end of the first half.
The Clippers pushed their lead back to nine with a 9-2 run to open the second half, but Derek followed a Kobe Bryant floater with his second trey of the night, pulling LA within four just four minutes into the second half. Derek took a feed from Bryant and hit another trey two minutes later to bring the Lakers within one. After three, the Clippers clung to a three-point lead, but the Lakers outscored them 28-20 in the final 12 minutes to pull off the win.
Fish believes the disparity in championship keeps Lakers/Clippers from rival status.
Bryant hit three shots in a row for the Lakers late in that fourth, followed by a foul shot after Chauncey Billups received a technical foul. Derek than sank two free throws, increasing the Lakers lead to four points. They led the rest of the way from there.
Derek finished the game 3-of-4 from behind the three-point line, tallying up nine of his 11 points there. Fish's three treys were a season-high and his 11 points also marked the third time this season No. 2 has hit double digits on the scoreboard.
The Lakers have now won 10 out of their last 11 home games. The victory also marks another season that the Clippers have yet to beat the Lakers twice in a row. That last happened during the 2006-07 season. With that, and 16 Lakers championship banners hanging from the Staples Center ceiling in mind, Fish said, despite the tension between the two teams this season, Lakers/Clippers isn't a rivalry yet.
"There's too many of those up there to get into that discussion," Fisher said as he pointed at the Lakers' 16 championship banners at Staples Center during last week's All-Access event. "At the same time, obviously for a lot of fans that aren't at this particular event, that's exciting for them. That's fair. That's fine. It's been quite some time since you've been able to be excited."
Fish may have the right idea, considering the Lakers now lead the overall series 142-49. The rubber game this season is slated for Wednesday, April 4, with the Clippers playing the host role at Staples.
"I look at it as it's not a rivalry," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. Right now they're ahead of us in terms of what they want to be doing with their team on both ends of the floor and so for us, we're still searching," he said. "That's the state of where we are right now," he added. "We're a ways a way from being, or reaching our potential of, where we're going to be at the end of the season."
Wednesday marked the Lakers' final game of the week, but it will be a busty weekend on the road for the men in Purple and Gold.
Fish and the Lakers head to Milwaukee on Saturday night to start a back-to-back road series at 5:30 PST on KCAL. After playing the Bucks, LA will swing over to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. on KCAL.
The Lakers then return home for one game, against Charlotte on Tuesday before embarking on a six-game road trip, their longest of the season.