By Lynette Rice
November 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST
Adam Taylor/ABC
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If Derek Hough’s fans rally, the young pro could earn a record-breaking fourth mirror ball from Dancing with the Stars. After all, he’s never lost the championship when he made it to the top 3 — a stat that isn’t lost on his current partner Ricki Lake.

“Oh God I don’t want to be the one that lets him down,” Lake told reporters after Monday’s show. “But truthfully, I have done everything I came here to do. I’ve gotten my body into better shape than probably ever in my life. I feel like I’ve learned these beautiful dances to the best of my ability. I did a mean freestyle tonight, so I have nothing to be sorry about or unhappy about. Those guys, if one of them wins, then they were the ones that deserve it. I am so happy for all of us.”

But is Hough and Lake a slam dunk for the winner’s circle? Their cha-cha and freestyle dances earned 54 out of a total 60 points Monday, tying them in second place with J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff. Going into Tuesday’s season finale, Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke lead with 57 and the reality star has a big fan base.

But Lake underwent the biggest transformation this season, as evidenced by her ever-shrinking waist. That could end up resonating with fans more than the appeal of the Kardashian dynasty. “For all the big girls out there, this was an opportunity for me to really come out and do something I never thought I’d do before,” Lake said.

Hough, meanwhile, entered the night feeling a lot more introspective about his place on the dance floor. “I don’t feel the pressure to win like I’ve felt in the past,” he admitted. “A week or two ago I wasn’t too sure if we had a chance, but I feel really proud of Ricki.” And if he doesn’t break his own record of wins, and ends up taking second or (gulp) third place? Will Hough have his own whiny “this is my show” moment like Maksim Chmerkovskiy?

Don’t count on it. “This show has taught me an immense amount of patience, how to handle things a lot differently, and how to let things go,” Hough said. “Before I’d be a lot more uptight or I’d take something very personally. This show has taught me at the end of the day, it’s entertainment, and I’m supposed to be there for my partner and have the best time possible … not to patronize them and tell them they are doing good if they’re not. I’m really tough on them and I want them to reach their best.” — With additional reporting from Carrie Borzillo

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