SALT LAKE CITY — Derek Fisher, for the fourth straight season, was back Saturday night making huge shots at EnergySolutions Arena during a playoff series.
Unfortunately for the Utah Jazz and their fans, the past three seasons Fisher has been making those big jumpers wearing a Los Angeles Lakers uniform. That fact has turned the one-time Jazz fan favorite into Public Enemy No. 2 — trailing only Kobe Bryant in vitriol in Salt Lake City.
Fisher, who turns 36 in August, had his best game of the playoffs during the Lakers' 111-110 victory. The final three of his 20 points came on a jumper beyond the arc with 29 seconds remaining, giving the Lakers a 109-108 lead they would not surrender.
"That's what I live for," Fisher said of his big 3-pointer. "It's always good when they go down and we win."
Fisher's big bucket came as a surprise to exactly no one on either team.
"(Fisher's) done that his whole career. He's a playoff player," said Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer.
"He makes big plays," said Lakers big man Pau Gasol. "It's not surprising."
Fisher, as has been the case in Utah since he left the Jazz following the 2007 season, was booed nearly every time he touched the basketball.
"I understand it," said Fisher of the boos from the Utah fans. "I accept it for what it is. I'm on the opposing team, so regardless about what people feel personally about my situation, they are still going to boo for the guy on the other team. It's just that simple. I'm not going to expect fans from the home team to cheer loudly for a player on the other team."
Fisher helped the Jazz to an overtime win over Golden State in 2007 in one of the most memorable games in franchise history. Fisher arrived at the arena after the game had already started after flying in from New York where his infant daughter was being treated for a rare form of eye cancer.
What happened next has been well documented. The Jazz, at Fisher's urging, let him out of his contract so that he could move his family closer to where his daughter could get the best medical attention. He then re-signed with the Lakers — and many Jazz fans have never forgiven him.
While Fisher says he understands the boos, he clearly doesn't like it.
"I would venture to bet that if I were a construction worker or a librarian or a police officer and I made the decision to transfer to another city or another department to do what was best for my family, I'd be more commended," Fisher said. "But because it's sports there is just so much passion and emotion involved in what's going on. ... It hasn't helped that we're playing (the Jazz) 12, 15 times a season and we've come out on the top end of it and it seems (to the fans) that I'm the reason why. If I were a betting man, I would think that No. 24 (Kobe Bryant) and No. 16 Gasol) and a some other guys have a lot more to do with it than my contributions."
Certainly Bryant is the ringleader for the Lakers, but Fisher came through both offensively and defensively on Saturday.
After an early airball, Fisher made three 3-pointers and finished the game by going 7-for-13 from the field in 36 minutes on the court.
"My first shot, I hit the side of a barn somewhere," said Fisher. "It was actually after that shot that I kinda reminded myself that my shot is there and I've been practicing great. From that point on, after missing a shot so badly, I decided that I was going to need to step in there and knock them down."
He also managed to frustrate jazz point guard Deron Williams in the second quarter with three quick fouls, two of them on the offensive side of the ball.
"With D-Will sometimes you just have to hope for the best," said Fisher. "You make him work as hard as you can. ... At the end of the night, statistically, he's probably always going to outdo me, but I'm just going to work as hard as I can to make him work."
Now Fisher and the Lakers lead the Jazz 3-0 in the best-of-7 series. He's just one victory away from eliminating his former team for a third straight time.
When you win, obviously, it's a lot of fun to be in a game like tonight," Fisher said. "... Hopefully it was as entertaining to the fans as it was to the players."
Lakers fans, no doubt, were more entertained than Jazz fans.