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Fisher and Lakers steal one from the Magic

Associated Press
Published February 9, 2004

ORLANDO - Derek Fisher's quick hands capped a comeback victory that his strong shooting started.

Fisher stole the ball from Rod Strickland and set up Gary Payton's layup with 4.1 seconds left, leading the Lakers 98-96 over Orlando on Sunday.

"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, his most since opening night, 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.

The 18-point lead was the largest the Magic has blown in a loss this season.

Shaquille O'Neal returned with 5:56 left 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 31-30. 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 to go on Rick Fox's 3-pointer. His only field goal of the game came off a broken play that was drawn for Fisher.

Strickland took the ensuing inbound pass high on the right wing, only to have Fisher jar it loose. 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 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."

Giricek missed a shot at the buzzer with Payton draped over him, and the Magic lost its sixth straight. 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 Tracy 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 in the final 2:28, with three straight turnaround jumpers giving Orlando a 96-93 lead.

"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."

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