UPDATE (10:35 am PT): We're chatting live... follow this link to enter the room.
There were two big stories coming out of Tuesday night's 124-118 win over the Warriors at Staples Center. First, the Lakers won. Normally not such a big deal, particularly against an opponent entering the affair with a grand total of three (3) road wins. But as Andy points out in his postgame wrap from last night (full analysis and video coverage contained within), the end of 2009 hasn't really been all that normal for the Lakers. As a squad, things aren't clicking. Banking on wins is a risk, even against Don Nelson's crew.
It was ugly early, the Lakers falling behind by 11 in the first quarter and as much as 15 in the second, showing steadfast dedication to the "undisciplined O, nonexistent D" plan which served them oh so poorly Monday night in Phoenix. In the third, the Lakers turned things around, erasing a seven point deficit and entering the fourth with a lead. Down the stretch, Kobe Bryant helped carry the squad, finishing with 44 points (including 27 in the second half) and 11 assists while making good on a plea to Phil Jackson for heavy minutes in the game. If nothing else, Kobe impressed Nellie.
27/12 from Pau Gasol, who broke out of a three game mini-slump, also was key. (Ask Jeff Miller of the OC Register, and he'll tell you Gasol is the essential ingredient to L.A.'s championship equation.)
But that's just the game. One of 82, plus playoffs. Important in the moment, but likely without any real long-term consequence. Which brings us to something that might- Ron Artest's head.
When he signed with the Lakers, many thought it would get the franchise in trouble. To some degree at least, said doubters have been proven right, in the most literal sense. The Christmas Day fall that left him with a concussion forced Artest to miss his third straight game, and at halftime of Tuesday's game he met with the media for the first time (video here, transcript here).
A cogent, clear-headed Artest can be totally confusing. The woozy and concussed version can be as tough to follow as a random chapter of Ulysses. Add in claims of memory loss, and as Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles writes, it's easy to feel like Artest left a lot of important questions unanswered. Intentionally or not, Artest has become, at least for a moment, fair or not, a distraction. And as the Register's Kevin Ding notes, the widespread suspicion surrounding the accuracy of Artest's story (or the parts able to be reconstructed, at least) doesn't seem to bother him.
When it comes to Ron Ron, he might not be the best person to relay his own story anyway. I'm not sure the memory loss hurts the account all that much. Meanwhile, we're all left with Ron-Artest-gets-his-head-examined jokes, which given the season is like his gift to us. (Nobody wants to think too hard until after January 1.)
In other Lakers news...
Despite not having worked all that well in early go-rounds, PJ stuck with the Big Three starting lineup in Artest's absence.
John Ireland of ESPN Los Angeles weighs in on a missing Artest.