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Fisher's heroics put Lakers on brink

THE Los Angeles Lakers moved to the brink of their 15th NBA championship on Thursday, capitalizing on the long-range shooting of Derek Fisher to defeat the Orlando Magic 99-91 in overtime.

Fisher hit a 25-foot 3-point shot with 4.6 seconds left in regulation and then nailed a 27-footer with just over 30 seconds left in overtime to give the Lakers a 94-91 lead.

Pau Gasol scored the remaining five points to seal the win.

"On a championship run you're going to have moments where you just make big plays, and tonight was one of them," said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who scored 32 points.

"The guys stepped up. That's what the journey is about," he said.

The Lakers lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can wrap up their first title since 2002 with a victory tomorrow in Orlando.

Bryant led the Lakers with 32 points but the 11-time All- Star and 2008 Most Valuable Player was not at his best, hitting only 11 of 31 shots.

Gasol and Trevor Ariza each added 16 for Los Angeles.

The Lakers got out of jail when Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard missed two free throws with 11.1 seconds left in regulation with the Magic leading 87-84.

Had he made even one of the free throws, the Magic would likely have leveled the series at 2-2 and been in the hunt for their first title.

"I just missed them," said Howard, who misfired on eight of his 14 free-throw attempts. "I've been working on my free throws. They just weren't falling.

"There's no need to get down on myself. I think I did a lot of good things tonight, just free throws weren't there. Not just for me but for everybody."

After a time out the Lakers worked the ball upcourt and found Fisher open on the wing, and the veteran left-hander calmly sank the game-tying, three-pointer.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said his decision not to foul the Lakers when they were bringing the ball upcourt in the waning seconds of regulation "will haunt me forever." "We gave him so much space to shoot the ball," he said of Fisher's game-tying shot. "We played like we were trying to prevent the lay up. We did a good job, we denied Bryant the ball, and then we just didn't play Derek Fisher, just didn't guard him."

Hedo Turkoglu paced the Magic with 25 points, while Howard added 16 points and 21 rebounds. Orlando committed 17 turnovers and hit only 22 of 37 attempts from the free-throw line.

"We had it but just kind of slipped away because of our stupidness," said Turkoglu. "We can't be really down on ourselves, no matter what. Win or lose tonight, we have to win the game on Sunday."

Ariza scored 13 in the third quarter when the Lakers recovered from a 12-point deficit to take a four-point lead into the final frame.

The Magic went down by six in the final quarter, silencing the crowd of more than 17,000 at the Amway Arena, before rallying down the stretch.

Off the court, a spokesman for former NBA referee Tim Donaghy said Donaghy was attacked in prison by a fellow inmate who claimed he had ties to the New York mob.

The attacker hit Donaghy in the right knee with a stick or club in November at a minimum security federal prison in Pensacola, said Pat Zaranek of Executive Prison Consultants.

Donaghy, who pleaded guilty in New York to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commence, is serving a 15-month sentence.

"Verbally, there was a comment made that they were going to shoot him in the head and break his knee caps," Zaranek said.

Donaghy said he took thousands of dollars from a professional gambler in exchange for insider tips on NBA games, including some he worked.


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