Kobe Bryant is one win from an NBA title to call his own.
Derek Fisher got him there.
Fisher forced overtime with a three-pointer with 4.6 seconds left in regulation and then drilled another one with 31.3 seconds to go in overtime as the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Orlando Magic, 99-91, in Game 4 last night to open a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
It was the first time since 1984, when Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics hooked up, that two games in a Finals have gone to overtime.
When the clock expired, Bryant, trying to win his first championship without Shaquille O'Neal, looked at Tiger Woods and wiped sweat from his brow in relief. Fisher, who has bailed out the Lakers in plenty of big games before, thrust both arms in the air in triumph.
The Lakers can wrap up their 15th title on Sunday night in Game 5, also in Orlando.
Bryant finished with 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol each had 16 for Los Angeles, which came back from a 12-point halftime deficit. Ariza had 13 of the Lakers' 30 points in the third quarter.
The Lakers are 7-0 following a loss in this postseason.
Unless they can force a Game 6, the Magic will remember this as another Finals game that got away.
Dwight Howard was magnificent everywhere but at the free-throw line. Orlando's superman of a center had 16 points, 21 rebounds and a Finals-record nine blocks. But he made just 6 of 14 foul shots, and it was his two crucial misses with 11.1 seconds to go in regulation that doomed the Magic.
First, Fisher, who has made a career of hitting memorable shots in clutch situations, pulled up and without hesitating dropped a three-pointer over Orlando's Jameer Nelson with 4.6 seconds left to tie it, 87-87. The shot stunned the Magic's maniacal crowd, which was hoping the home team could win its second straight Finals game after dropping its first six.
Fisher had missed his first five threes, but came up with one the little lefthander will cherish forever.
"I was just going to take over and kind of survey the situation but Nelson was giving me a lot of space and I like to step into those threes," Fisher said. "Even though I wasn't making them, I felt like I could do that. I felt good to help the team that way.
"My teammates and my coaches kept giving me that confidence to continue to believe in myself. I wanted to come through for the guys."
Just as they did in Game 2, Orlando had one final try, and this time guard Courtney Lee, who misfired on a tougher-than-it-looked layup in that loss, wasn't on the floor. The Magic inbounded the ball to Mickael Pietrus, but his long and contested jumper was off.
Bryant scored two quick baskets in the overtime, and Howard tied it when he split two free throws with 1:27 remaining.
On L.A.'s next trip, Ariza grabbed his own miss to get another 24 seconds and Fisher lined up and drilled his three-pointer from the top of the key to make it 94-91.
As Fisher retreated down court and Orlando called a timeout, the Lakers' bench stormed onto the court and surrounded the popular 34-year-old guard, who came back to the team after a short stint in Utah.
* Never one to shy away from a question, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy didn't back down during his news conference before Game 4.
Van Gundy called the NBA's age-limit rule a "sham." He said the NCAA is "the worst organization going."
The Magic coach has always said he doesn't like the NBA's much-maligned rule that a player must be 1 year removed from high school before he enters the league. That rule has only been magnified during the Finals, with five of the 10 starters skipping college, including Orlando's Dwight Howard and Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant.
But Van Gundy added a new twist.
"To me, it's a sham," he said of the rule. "But I don't want to get going in this press conference on the NCAA because I think that's about the worst organization going."
* An autographed Michael Jordan jersey has been stolen from the home of Spurs guard Tony Parker in San Antonio. The Bexar County sheriff's office said Parker's manager reported the jersey missing last month. It had been taken from a gym under construction at Parker's home.
Detectives later found a listing for the jersey on Craigslist that was posted by Christopher James Carolan, a 22-year-old San Antonio man who worked for the security company hired to protect the home.
* Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose says he used "extremely poor judgment" in posing for a photo flashing a gang sign. The NBA's Rookie of the Year said in a statement issued through the Bulls that the photo circulating on the Internet was taken at a party he attended while at the University of Memphis. *