Artest ejected, Lakers win

This game was a lot closer than the final score (111-98) would indicate.

With about seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter and the Lakers up 10, Kobe and Artest were fighting for position under the basket and Kobe caught Artest in the throat with an elbow. (It looked intentional to me.) Amazingly, Artest was called for a foul, and when the ref wouldn’t listen to him, he went over and confronted Kobe about it. Artest protested too long for Joey Crawford, who tossed him. Not a smart play by Artest to keep pressing the point, but he deserved a technical, not an ejection. He needs to keep his composure in that situation, but really, does anyone actually expect him to?

Late in the third quarter, Derek Fisher threw a shoulder into Luis Scola, who was approaching him to set a pick. While Doug Collins was marveling about Fisher’s “toughness,” I was thinking about how dumb of a play it was. It was clear that he was seeking Scola out and dead set on laying a hit on him. In the age of replay, when officials can make a judgment based on the video, it’s not worth getting that shot in, even if you’re trying to make a statement. The Lakers subs have struggled of late — what if his team needed him in the fourth quarter? Hell, he deserves to be suspended.

The whole thing with Scola started earlier in the game, but I’m not sure when. Before Fisher’s shoulder block, Lamar Odom was jawing at Scola after he blocked the Argentine’s shot. On a later play, Scola fouled Odom on the way to the hoop and the two exchanged words. Then Luke Walton came over to talk to Scola. Then Sasha Vujacic came over. Fisher’s “flagrant 2” was on the ensuing play.

The other thing I want to mention is the play of Kobe Bryant. He shot the ball well, hitting 16 of 27 shots en route to a 40-point game. But what bothers me is that all season we keep hearing about how important another title is to him, yet there he is jawing at Shane Battier after every bucket and saying, “he can’t guard me!” This is a team game, but once again, Kobe makes it about Kobe. Why can’t he let his brilliant play speak for itself? The important thing is that the Lakers tied the series, not that he can score at will on Battier.

Looking ahead, the Lakers were effective in limiting Yao Ming (12 points) because they fronted him in the post. In that situation, the Rockets’ immediate read should be to turn the ball to the other side of the court. Yao seals his man (who is in front of him) and there should be an easy entry pass into the post. Tonight, Houston played into the Lakers’ hands by keeping the ball on the same side of the court and Yao didn’t have a chance to have a big impact on the game.

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