SALT LAKE CITY -- It was Derek Fisher's night ... and for that, he can thank his former teammates.
Fisher delivers in every way
Fisher forced a key turnover in the final seconds of regulation, then hit a key 3-pointer in overtime to clinch the victory as Utah beat Golden State 127-117 on Wednesday to extend to a 2-0 series lead.
It capped a day on which basketball was the least of his concerns. Fisher had flown in from New York on Wednesday evening after one of his twin 10-month-old daughters, Tatum, was in surgery all day for a rare cancer called retinoblastoma in her left eye.
Fisher had missed Game 1 to be with his wife and daughter, flying from Salt Lake City on Monday afternoon for the procedure at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Fortunately, the surgery was successful -- so successful that Fisher, wife and baby all flew together back to Salt Lake City afterward.
"We're still not out of the woods here for another two or three months," said Fisher, "but for now, everything is OK."
But since the surgery didn't end until 4:15 p.m. ET, Fisher couldn't make it out West in time for the game's 9 p.m. ET start. He did his best though, hopping a charter flight to Salt Lake City and then getting a police escort on the short drive from the airport to Energy Solutions Arena. While his wife and daughter went home, Fisher changed, stretched and took to the court with 3:18 left in the third quarter.
He entered to a resounding ovation -- the loudest of the night in a generally loud arena -- and immediately checked into the game. It was just in the nick of time, too.
Starting point guard Deron Williams had just picked up his fourth foul, and the only other available ball handler, speedy rookie Dee Brown, was at the hospital getting checked out after having his neck bent forward in a first-quarter collision with teammate Mehmet Okur.
"I asked him if he was all right, and he said he was," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said of Fisher. "He's gone through a lot the last few days, and basketball was probably a good opportunity for him. I was just real happy for him."
Yet his efforts seemed for naught after a 12-1 Warriors run in the fourth quarter put Golden State up by five points with 52.9 seconds left.
But that's when Fisher stepped up, forcing a key turnover on Davis with 27.4 seconds left and the Jazz down by three. Fisher forced Davis to the sideline and deflected the ball, and Davis stepped out of bounds when he retrieved it.
"I thought he was trying to foul me, he kept reaching," Davis said. "He was just playing good defense, and I should have kept the ball in the middle of the floor."
Things still looked bleak for the home team when Okur forced up a 3-pointer that missed badly, but Fisher's former teammates became their own worst enemy. Mickael Pietrus bricked two free throws, and Davis missed one out of two -- a not-uncommon sight for the Warriors, who were 26th this year in free-throw percentage at 71.7 percent this year and clanged three other freebies in the fourth.
"We're not a great free-throw shooting team, but we haven't lost many games because of it," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "[It happened] only once or twice in the regular season, but then in this big game it bit us right in the behind."
Those misses, bracketed around a tough Okur jumper from the corner, allowed Utah to get in position to even the score. Then, following a timeout, Davis and Pietrus appeared to get their signals crossed defensively, leaving Deron Williams with an open 12-footer to tie the game and send it to overtime.
From there, it was all over but the crying, as a gassed Warriors team playing on a short rotation had little left in the tank for OT. Fisher provided the dagger for good measure, a 3-pointer from the left corner (his only field-goal attempt) that gave Utah a six-point lead with 1:06 remaining to cap a long, eventful night.
Fisher, who finished with five points (including 2-of-2 free throws) and three assists in 9:31 of action, hadn't been aware of his daughter's illness until May 2 and had been seen wearing sunglasses to and from practices and shootarounds while he absorbed the news.
"We have been on an emotional roller coaster, and we will probably be on it for years to come, because it is a cancer," he said. "But we're going to help her beat it and help other kids beat this as well."
The noted playoff stalwart had been a Warrior before the season. However, Golden State traded him to Utah in a cost-cutting move that netted the expendable contracts of Devin Brown, Andre Owens and Keith McLeod -- no doubt never expecting to face off against him in a game of this magnitude.
And with his daughter's surgery a success, he can get back to focusing on winning two more games to send Utah to the conference finals. After sweating out two tough, hard-fought games on their home court, the Jazz know plenty of work remains to be done -- especially with Games 3 and 4 in Oakland.
"They beat us by about 70 points the last time we played there," said Sloan of the 126-102 defeat on April 9.
But the Jazz will have Fisher back in the starting lineup the rest of the way, rather than waiting for a grand midgame entrance.
"If it takes five more games to win this series, I should be able to play all of those games without interruption," he said.
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Harry How/Getty Image
Jazz center Mehmet Okur (23 points, 18 rebounds) sank three 3-pointers to help Utah to a Game 2 win.
Facts and figures from Wednesday night:
• The Jazz starting frontcourt was too much for the Warriors to handle, combining for 73 points and 40 rebounds. Carlos Boozer reached 30 points for the third time this postseason.
• Golden State stayed in the game with its 3-point shooting. The Warriors went 15-for-40 from downtown. The 40 attempts were second most in a playoff game in NBA history. The Warriors have now attempted 30 or more 3-pointers in five straight playoff games. Previously, no team in NBA playoff history had ever had a streak of three or more in a postseason.
-- Michael E. Jackson, ESPN Research
Now we are getting to the point in the playoffs where teams are going to go from intensity to something a little bit testier. All eight teams remaining are fighting for a spot in their conference finals. Two teams in the East are getting manhandled and the two series in the West -- I know it's early -- could become classics.
When you get to this tipping point in the playoffs you can believe that the officials are going to have to up their game every bit as much as the players because the sparks, and the elbows, are going to start to fly.
Harry How/Getty Images
Derek Fisher got a late start in the game, arriving during the third quarter, but his presence helped deliver a Jazz victory against his former Warriors teammates.
Quote of the Day:
-- Andrew Ayres
John Hollinger's blog entry after Game 2 of the Warriors-Jazz series included this excerpt on the young players for each team:
Monta Ellis continued his slump, scoring one point in seven minutes and struggling to fight through all the Jazz screens at the defensive end.
At Wednesday's shootaround, Golden State coach Don Nelson indicated he had to have Ellis on a short leash due to his struggles, and might just shorten his rotation to seven guys. But he said he was not considering replacing Ellis with Sarunas Jasikevicius or Kelenna Azubuike.
Ellis' woes are part of another emerging trend in this series -- Utah's young guys are stepping up, while Golden State's are AWOL.
Ellis, Andris Biedrins and Mickael Pietrus combined to score only seven points tonight, leaving the five Warrior vets to pile up the other 110.
Meanwhile, Utah got enormous contributions from its kiddie corps. Deron Williams obviously was huge again, hitting the tying basket and compiling 17 points and 14 assists despite playing only 59 seconds in the first quarter due to fouls.
And Utah's three rookies all have played major roles. Dee Brown was a factor in Game 1 with his quickness, helping make up for Derek Fisher's absence. Ronnie Brewer played 10 solid minutes off the pine, making both shots from the floor. And Paul Millsap had a monstrous second quarter, with a finally tally that included 10 points, six rebounds and an impressive open-court pick of Matt Barnes.
Chip (Cleveland): Again, you still say you liked the Nets on paper before the series. You cannot defend that. Like I said, defense, rebounding and the superstar. Where do the Nets show up better on paper?
David Thorpe: It's not about all season. With Jefferson and Nachbar playing so well, the Nets had four of the five best perimeter players in the series. They still do, but their bigs have been atrocious. And don't forget I still predicted the Cavs to win the series.
Carlos Boozer (30 points) and Mehmet Okur (18 rebounds) posted the gaudy numbers in the Jazz' 127-117 overtime win over the Warriors.
But don't overlook Andrei Kirilenko's six blocked shots ... after he recorded seven blocks in Game 1.
Kirilenko is the first player to block 13 shots over the first two games of an NBA playoff series since Hakeem Olajuwon had 13 in the first two games of a first-round series between the Rockets and Clippers in 1993.
Six of Kirilenko's 13 blocks -- three in each game -- were against Stephen Jackson, who made only 9-of-32 in those games (28 percent).