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Lakers edge closer to 15th crown

ORLANDO, June 12 – Los Angeles moved one step closer to their 15th title thanks to Derek Fisher, whose clutch three-pointers lifted the Lakers to a 99-91 overtime victory over the Orlando Magic on Thursday.

KOBE_BRYANTKobe Bryant scored a game-high 32 points but Fisher’s pair of threes at the end of regulation and in overtime helped give the Lakers a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven National Basketball Association Finals.

"On a championship run you are going to have moments where you just make big plays and tonight was one of them," Bryant said. "The guys stepped up. That is what the journey is all about. You have guys step up and make those big plays."

Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol each added 16 points for the Lakers, who are on the brink of winning the 15th championship in franchise history after losing to Boston in six games in last year’s finals. They are second all-time behind Boston’s 17 titles.

The Lakers can claim the title by winning game five here on Friday. Games six and seven, if necessary, would be played next week in Los Angeles.

Fisher nailed a three-pointer with 4.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime, then hit another dagger with 31 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Lakers the lead for good in front of a crowd of 17,461 at Amway Arena.

"(Jameer) Nelson gave me a lot of space and I like to step into those threes," said Fisher, who was 0-for-5 in three-point attempts before he started connecting.

On the first three-pointer, Fisher had plenty of time to run up the floor and shoot over Nelson and on the second in overtime, the Lakers tried to run a play for Bryant but he was guarded so he dished it off to Fisher.

"Late in the game I kept getting the ball too far away from the basket," Bryant said. "Fish was wide open."

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Hedo Turkoglu collected 25 points while Dwight Howard had 16 points, 21 rebounds and nine blocked shots but committed seven turnovers for the Magic, who are in danger of having their dream season spoiled at home.

"It is a tough loss," Turkoglu said. "We had it but we let it slip away."
The Lakers are in the finals for the 30th time while the Magic are making just their second appearance in 14 years.

The Lakers shot 75 percent from the free throw line and rallied from a 12-point half-time deficit.

"The second half we did a much better job of scrapping, fighting and clawing," said Bryant, who had a couple of on-court run-ins with Howard on Thursday.

Los Angeles is now a perfect 7-0 in the post-season when coming off a loss.

"We came out of the locker room with determination," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We got hamstrung a bit in the first half. Fish made a tremendous shot, a big shot to tie the game and give us momentum to win that overtime game."

Bryant said the challenge for Sunday’s game five will be to stay calm and not get too excited over this victory.

"It could easily be a different two days than we’ve had in the past," Bryant said. "But you have to stay focused. You have to try and hold on to your excitement as much as you can and just prepare. Prepare, prepare, prepare and get ready to go."

Bryant is seeking his fourth NBA championship ring and first without Shaquille O’Neal, while Jackson could collect his 10th NBA title Sunday to surpass Boston Celtics legendary coach Red Auerbach for the all-time mark.

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