June 07, 2010
It was almost comical, this stereotype gone mad. One of the worst shooting exhibitions I've seen, at this level, in a long time. Tossing out the "in a long time" qualifier, by the way, because I can't think of anything worse than it right now, and I'm hoping I'm wrong. I'm hoping there was something worse than this. There probably wasn't.
Ron Artest(notes) shot 1-for-10 in Game 2, scoring six points, turning the ball over three times and fouling out in the process. It wasn't just that he shot miserably in a game that should have been a notch in his belt (holding Paul Pierce(notes) on the other end to 2-of-11 shooting), but it was the way he put up those 10 shots. Terrible looks, mostly uncalled-for, seriously team-crippling.
If anything, Artest's play did away with a notion that I find particularly distasteful, one that states that anything he gives you on offense (if Paul Pierce is shooting 2-of-11) is gravy, and that he has to be a pretty destructive force on offense in order to mitigate his fabulous contributions defensively.
Well, in Game 2, he was a destructive force. This wasn't one bad game leading to another, and I'm certainly not giving Ron extra points because Paul Pierce isn't supposed to shoot 2-for-11, so an even/crummy game from the both of them is a win for Ron. No way. Not with those missed Laker chances. Not with the game Ron just came through with. If he scores five points on 2-of-5 shooting, that's gravy. Ten shots like that? That kills your team.
Save for three of the 10 shots, all were tossed up on broken plays of Ron's creation, with double figures on the shot clock. A couple were with more than 20 seconds left on the shot clock. One came after Ron decided to try and cross Glen Davis(notes) over, moving left, and pulling up for a 3-pointer with 20 seconds on the shot clock. In the fourth quarter, no less.
Two other looks came when the Lakers had no other chance - one to nearly close the first half as Kobe Bryant(notes) was triple-teamed, the other after the ball had swung around the Laker perimeter and the shot clock was dwindling - but otherwise this was Ron going off on his own, killing the offense.
One bomb, in particular, was the most egregious. I'm sure you remember what I'm talking about.
With 70 seconds left in the game and the Lakers down eight, needing a quick score in any style, Artest goes about dribbling with his left hand from the right side of the court to the left, desperate to get behind the 3-point arc. How he didn't turn the ball over, I don't know, though I'm assuming the Celtics were as astonished as we were watching this train wreck amble along the tracks.
Artest pulls up from behind the 3-point arc with 12 seconds left on the clock, after dribbling away the previous 11 seconds, and finds that he has no shot. Undeterred, he steps on the 3-point line, lunges ahead of Paul Pierce to fire up a long 3-pointer with 11 seconds left on the shot clock. The sort of shot you try at the buzzer, or if you're some scrub trying to get enough points for a triple-double late in the game. And he tries it toward the end of a Finals game, a long two, with 11 seconds left on the shot clock.
Astonishingly poor shot selection. And he missed five of eight free throws, too.
I'm not going to laud the outcome. Not making excuses for Pierce, nor am I trying to buttress my point, but go back and look at some of Pierce's misses. These were makeable shots, and while Artest played great defense on him, Pierce could have easily made half his shots in this game. He just could not connect.
And, for whatever reason, the Lakers just aren't connecting with Artest. He's done well, for most of this season, to keep those nutbar offensive instincts in check, and he should be applauded for that. But in a game that sees Pau Gasol(notes) shoot 7-of-10 and Kobe Bryant, last we checked, suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, the only way to describe Artest's offensive play in any meaningful way would be to call it "destructive."
Because Pierce's poor night does not matter. Doing your job (moving your feet, getting a hand up) and seeing Pierce respond poorly (sometimes you can do your job, and watch as your man knocks in shot after shot) does not allow you to play anywhere near this poorly on the other end, and while I'm not going to credit Artest with the Laker loss in Game 2, clearly he put his team at a disadvantage overall.
He wasn't alone in making curious plays. Kobe Bryant needlessly doubled Kevin Garnett(notes) (six assists) a few times. Before Phil Jackson could confer with his coaching staff as to whether or not to leave Lamar Odom(notes) out on the court with two fouls, LO had picked up his third. Jordan Farmar(notes) and Shannon Brown(notes) took some iffy shots, and the whole team could have done better in trying to find Pau Gasol.
But Ron, as he tends to do, stood out. It'd be laughable if it were against the Grizzlies in February. Maybe. But you're playing the Celtics, in June, and you just dribbled with your off-hand for 13 seconds before launching a lunging 22-foot 2-pointer while falling away from a defender who beat you to the spot.
It's pretty sad that, in this team's 102nd game, the Lakers will have to find a way to keep the ball out of their own player's hands in Game 3, but that's how it's going to have to roll if Ron keeps acting this way. And in spite of mostly good behavior during the regular season, we have no reason to believe that he'll be stopping any time soon. If he doesn't know by now, he'll never know.
But believe me. The Lakers know. Do they ever.