He had a quiet third quarter with just two points while the Lakers fell behind by 13, but made his presence known again in the fourth. Artest’s three-point play tied the game at 61 before he hit the 3-pointer late.
As chaos reigned after the final buzzer, a dazed Artest gave a fractured TV interview in which he thanked his psychiatrist and “everybody in my ’hood” before promoting his latest recording.
Artest had another big moment in these playoffs, rebounding Bryant’s missed 3-pointer and making a buzzer-beating layup against Phoenix to win Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
“I’ve been thinking about a ring (for a long time),” Artest said. “You know I came here and I didn’t make the money that I probably would’ve made somewhere else.”
He signed a five-year, $33.5 million deal last summer.
Eccentric though he can be, Artest’s first season in Los Angeles was mostly free of the controversy that has plagued him at other stops in his NBA career.
Sure, he dyed and cut his hair in various colors and styles late in the season. There was his unprompted admission of drinking during games when he played with the Chicago Bulls, he got fined for showing up late a couple times, and some eyebrows were raised when Artest turned up with a concussion in December. He said he fell and hit his head while carrying Christmas presents at home, causing him to miss five games.
But through it all, the rest of the Lakers had Artest’s back because as awful as his offense could be during the season, they never questioned his defensive effort.
“I’m just so happy for Ron the way he played,” Pau Gasol said. “Defensively, he did another great, great job on Paul Pierce, so he’s a huge part of our success. He’s like a little kid right now that got his dream come true, like we all did.”
PBT: San Antonio executed its game plan well in Game 1, shutting down Grizzlies star Zach Randolph.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
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