ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Derek Fisher's quick hands capped a
comeback victory that his strong shooting started.
"Rod is one of the best ball-handlers in history, but because
we had a foul to give, I just went for it," Fisher said.
Fisher also scored 15 points -- his most since opening night --
with 12 coming in a crucial run that rallied the Lakers from an
18-point deficit. He hit two 3-pointers in the comeback, almost all
of which came with the second unit on the floor.
"It was a pleasure to watch that group move the ball," Lakers
coach Phil Jackson said.
Shaquille O'Neal checked back in with 5:56 remaining after
sitting out since the beginning of the quarter, and his layup 21
seconds later put the Lakers ahead 88-87 -- their first lead since
O'Neal had 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
"This is a win we should not be proud of," O'Neal said. "We
won by two, but we should've beat this team by 20 or 30."
Los Angeles tied it at 96 with 11.7 seconds remaining on Rick
Fox's 3-pointer. His only field goal of the game came off a broken
play that was drawn up for Fisher.
"At that point, you just execute the play and do what you've
done for 13 years -- take good shots," said Fox, who played his
seventh game since returning from surgery on a tendon in his left
Strickland took the ensuing inbounds pass high on the right
wing, only to have Fisher jar it loose.
"Rod wanted a foul, but I just kept playing, going after it,"
said Fisher, who had three steals. "At that point of a game, the
refs usually let you play a little bit."
Fisher beat Strickland to the ball in the backcourt, waited a
moment and hit Payton on the bounce for the winning shot. Gordan
Giricek was called for goaltending, but the shot most likely was
going in anyway.
"It was disappointing because we had them on the ropes," said
Strickland, blaming himself for the turnover. "We had them and
just let it slip away."
Payton finished with 18 points, and Kareem Rush added 17 after
missing two games with a sprained ankle.
Giricek missed a shot at the buzzer with Payton draped all over
him, and the Magic lost for the sixth straight time. The play was
designed for Tracy McGrady, and he beat his man to the top of the
key, but Horace Grant alertly moved away from guarding the inbounds
pass to deny Orlando's star the ball.
Giricek also had a crucial backcourt violation with 28.4 seconds
left, one of three Magic turnovers in the final 52.8 seconds.
"Horrible execution, and it can cost you," said McGrady, who
had four turnovers, as did Strickland.
McGrady had 35 points, six rebounds and six assists in his
return after a two-game absence because of back spasms. He played
45 minutes, his only rest coming when he reinjured his back late in
the second quarter.
Juwan Howard scored six of his 18 points in the final 2:28, with
three straight turnaround jumpers giving Orlando a 96-93 lead.
Strickland came off the bench for 13 points and five assists.
The Magic shot 51 percent despite a 6-for-18 start. But their
18-point lead was the largest they've blown in a loss this season.
"We definitely show signs of being soft at times," McGrady
said. "Each individual has to take his responsibility of stepping
up and being tough. We can talk about it and tell everyone what we
expect from them, but you have to want to do it."
McGrady reinjured his back with 2:49 left before halftime when
he landed awkwardly going for an offensive rebound. He gingerly
walked to the locker room, but returned to make his first four
shots of the third quarter.
That put the Magic ahead by 11, and they seized a 79-61 lead
with 1:58 left in the period on Strickland's jumper.
But Fisher hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, then followed
with another long jumper. That kicked off a 25-8 rally to bring Los
The game was a sellout, the Magic's third of the season.
... All 16 games the Lakers have played in Orlando were sellouts.
... The Magic's record against the Lakers fell to 7-23, their worst
against any franchise. ... Stanislav Medvedenko got a technical
foul midway through the first quarter when he argued with official
Bernie Fryer over drawing two fouls in a span of 33 seconds. ...
Fox and Andrew DeClercq drew double technicals following Fox's hard
foul midway through the third quarter.
DeMar DeRozan, arguably the top shooting guard who could hit the free-agent market, is focused on re-signing with the Raptors, a source said.
Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving has accepted an invitation to play for Team USA at the Summer Games, filling out the 12-man roster for Rio de Janeiro.
Heat president Pat Riley said re-signing Whiteside will be the team's No. 1 priority, with a max contract projected to be $94.8 million over four years.