Perhaps inspired by the exciting atmosphere, he picked the perfect time to snap out of a personal funk, too.
Coming into the game averaging just 3.8 points on 22.7% shooting since joining his new team, he nearly doubled that effort against his former team — scoring seven consecutive points in the second quarter to bring the Thunder back within striking distance in a game they went on to win 102-93.
Fisher expressed some frustration with what has been said about him since his departure.
From Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: “Fisher has always been about selfless inspiration, and nothing hurt him more than the talk that the Lakers traded him because they thought he would cause trouble in a backup role behind Sessions. In a pregame news conference, he became a bit upset when denying that talk. He made it clear, if the Lakers had only asked him, he would have gladly accepted a lesser role to stay here through the end of the season. ”That flies in the face of … the type of team player I’ve been in every group I’ve ever been part of,” Fisher said. “Team sports raised me..I was raised doing team sports … that has always stood for sharing and sacrificing and giving of yourself so the group can succeed.” Was he disappointed in being characterized as a potential malcontent? He wouldn’t answer the question, but his steely stare said it all. ”I don’t know if I was disappointed, it’s not for me to speak at this point on how things could have been handled or should have been handled,” he said. “I moved on. I think obviously the organization had intentions of moving on, and exercised those intentions, and had every right to do so.”
Though it was certainly a memorable night for the 37-year-old veteran, the real story of the game was the gun-slinging Russell Westbrook who did anything and everything he pleased against the lackluster defense of a Lakers team that allowed at least 101 points for the third consecutive game.
From Mike Bresnahan of Los Angeles Times: “The Lakers fell eight games behind Oklahoma City after losing to the Thunder, 102-93, on the night Fisher returned to play against his former teammates. A volume of stories could be written on the differences between the teams, but it was condensed Thursday to the ridiculous speed of Russell Westbrook. The former UCLA guard had 36 points and six assists, clearly outplaying Ramon Sessions, the point guard the Lakers acquired the same day they traded Fisher. The third-quarter scoring was all that needed to be known. The Lakers had 19 points, Westbrook had 17… The box score was an eye sore for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant made seven of 25 shots and had 23 points. Metta World Peace made three of 13 shots, a stat line made incrementally better after he hit two late three-pointers. (Pau) Gasol made four of 11 shots. Sessions had a quiet seven points and five assists. His five turnovers and four fouls spoke loudly… “Westbrook really just put his head down and beat us to the cup a lot,” said center Andrew Bynum, who had 25 points and 13 rebounds. “We lost in the third quarter because he got layup after layup.” Durant had 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for the Thunder (39-12).”
The Thunder have now won six straight games and remain the second-best road team in the league at 17-8.
From Andre C. Fernandez of The Miami Herald: “It was clear even hours before tipoff, the Heat was ready to put a stop to its recent lackluster efforts. Back home and with another chance to get a little payback against the team that denied it a championship last June, the Heat recovered its energy and snapped a losing streak at two games with a 106-85 victory against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. “It was a total team win, and everyone did something positive,” Dwyane Wade said. “We’re going to need that playing three games in four nights.” At least for one night, the Heat (36-13) shed its recent woes and pulled away from the Mavericks behind some intense defense in the second half… The Heat is 21-2 at home this season. LeBron James and Chris Bosh each finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, and Wade scored 16 points as the Heat swept the two-game season series with Dallas. “I think the best thing we did was move the ball around,” Wade said. “Everybody got some touches. We understand it was only two losses, but we couldn’t lose not playing our style of basketball. This was about getting back to what we’re successful doing on both sides of the floor.” The Heat went through an intense shootaround early Thursday. The session was said to have lasted nearly 45 minutes longer than usual.”
From Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com: Only LeBron James knows how much his elbow has been hurting, how the non-concussion hit he suffered last week bothered him or just what is wrong with his finger that may or may not have been dislocated depending on whom you ask. What had been obvious was that James was in a slump, a five-game drop in production that coincided with the Heat’s overall standard of play sinking. The numbers were evidence enough but the eye test said plenty, James wasn’t looking like himself or playing like himself. It was easily the most prolonged regular-season slump — last year’s Finals are in a category of their own — he’d had in a Heat uniform. Depending on your opinion, it was perhaps is biggest lull in the regular-season play since a few dry spells in the midst of the 2006-07 season.
In short, James has been in need of a breakout. The fact that Thursday’s chance was against the team that had crushed him in those Finals last year was almost irrelevant. “I definitely put a lot of emphasis on this game,” James said. “I wanted to be well-balanced.” His performance in the Heat’s 106-85 victory over the Mavericks was not dominant; actually, by his standards it was probably less than average. His 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists don’t even qualify as one of his best two dozen games this year. But it was the first time in two weeks that James looked like the Most Valuable Player candidate he is. He was able to create offense for himself and others, make some key individual defensive plays that led to fast-break chances and get out and run to create the easy baskets that had disappeared from the Heat’s offense of late. “He made so many winning plays out there,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I don’t think the box score tells the story of the impact he had on the game. He made winning plays when the game was in the balance, it could’ve gone either way.” It is not normal that Spoelstra would have to qualify praise of James by saying he was “better than the box score,” because usually James’ numbers speak for themselves. But this performance did pass that hard-to-quantify eye test. He made a handful of plays in the second half — two steals that led to dunks and two perfect assists that led to layups — that came at times when the Heat needed them. James also made half of his 16 shots, the first time in six games he’d done that.”
Dallas was outrebounded 44-29 and has now lost nine of its past 11 road games. They dropped to the sixth seed and trail the Clippers by one game for the fourth seed.
- After suffering an embarrassing loss against the Nets, the Pacers redeemed themselves, barely, by defeating the lowly Wizards 93-89. Danny Granger led all scorers with 25 points while David West and George Hill scored 14 points apiece. Indiana has won five of the last seven games and moved to just 1 1/2 games within third-seeded Orlando. John Wall again showed poor execution down the stretch, turning the ball over with 32.4 seconds remaining with his team down by two. Washington has lost five straight games.
- Despite a season that looked to be dead in the water after the trade deadline, the Blazers are continuing to fight for a playoff spot and defeated the Hornets 99-93 at home. LaMarcus Aldridge — despite getting an MRI earlier in the day on his sore right hip — led the team with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists, Wesley Matthews had 18 points, and Raymond Felton had 12 points, 10 assists and three steals. Portland is three games behind three teams that are fighting for a playoff berth.
James Park is a regular contributor to Sheridanhoops.com. Follow him on twitter.