Artest Sparks Victory Over Hallway Rivals

Game 5 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals vs. the Phoenix Suns. Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals vs. the Boston Celtics. The 139-137 triple-overtime thriller vs. the Phoenix Suns.

Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, Ron Artest did it again.

With 45 seconds left and the Clippers trailing 108-104, Blake Griffin caught an outlet pass from Eric Gordon and began to look towards the basket.

To be honest, it seemed as if Griffin would get an easy bucket, or pass it to a wide-open Randy Foye for a lay-up. Enter Ron Artest.

Artest swiped the ball from Griffin before he could even put it on the floor, ending the Clippers’ hopes of tying the season series with their hallway ‘rivals.’

There were no overtimes in this game, as had been the case for both teams earlier in the week, yet the game did not lack excitement down the stretch.

Furthermore, the game featured highlight dunks from the usual suspects (Griffin and Shannon Brown) and an unusual suspect (Artest). Both Artest and Brown had reverse jams on Chris Kaman, with Artest jumping, skipping and flexing his biceps in celebration.

On a 4-on-1 fastbreak against Derek Fisher, Mo Williams launched an alley-oop pass to Griffin that looked too far from the hoop to possibly catch and dunk. Well for Griffin, anything is possible. Griffin easily dunked it, did his infamous staredown, and kept playing.

There was some drama late in the game, as an illegal screen by Kaman initiated a small incident with him and Fisher. After the game, head coach Vinny Del Negro claimed Fisher elbowed Kaman’s head, yet Fisher responded by claiming “I’m 6’1, he’s 7’1. Pretty tough for me to get up to his head.”

Despite leading by as many as 17 points, the Lakers blew another lead to an inferior team.

With L.A. giving up a combined 56 points and 30 rebounds to Channing Frye and Marcin Gortat, their prospects of stopping Griffin, Kaman, and DeAndre Jordan didn’t look too good.

Yet the big men weren’t the difference makers for the Clippers. Griffin had a modest 22 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, while Kaman had a mediocre 8 points and 7 rebounds. Jordan was not a factor in 23 minutes other then some eye-catching blocks (4 total).

Mo Williams, on the other had, had quite possibly his best game as a Clipper – 30 points and 6 assists on 11-16 shooting, including 4-7 from downtown. Williams was no match for the Black Mamba though, and that ultimately was the difference.

Kobe Bryant led a balanced Lakers offensive attack with 37 points and 6 rebounds. Andrew Bynum added 11 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks while Artest chimed in with 15 points, 3 steals and 3 blocks.

Most important of all was Pau Gasol’s 26 points. Before the game, Gasol vowed to give $1,000 to the relief effort in Japan for every point he scored. Furthermore, Laker legend Magic Johnson pledged to match Gasol’s donation, totaling in $52,000 overall.

For the most part, L.A. controlled the game, leading from start to finish. They controlled the glass (41-34) and had the defensive effort (9 steals and 8 blocks).

On the contrary, there were some causes for concern. L.A.’s bench was uncharacteristically bad, being outscored (31-16) and outplayed in almost every other major statistic. “The Killer B’s” combined to shoot 2-11, combining for 7 points.

The biggest concern, besides their bench, was L.A.’s poor defense. Instead of learning from the Phoenix game, L.A. fell back on old habits. Despite the return of Bynum, the Clippers scored 104 points on 42-84 shooting (50%).

Griffin and Williams routinely torched the Lakers’ defense. If L.A. is serious about contending for a championship (which they are), they’ll need to step up their intensity, focus and execution on the defensive end.

All in all, a win is a win. The Lakers didn’t have their best defensive outing, but Andrew Bynum continued to be a factor and it seems the team’s offense is beginning to gel. At this rate, L.A. will cruise into the playoffs as the #2 seed. With this type of effort though, they won’t be in the playoffs for too long.

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Tags: Andrew Bynum Blake Griffin Chris Kaman Deandre Jordan Derek Fisher Eric Gordon Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Lakers Mo Williams Pau Gasol Ron Artest Shannon Brown Vinny Del Negro

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