Somebody forgot to tell Ron Artest that the Lakers aren’t supposed to leave Rip City with a win. Come to think of it, even if someone had reminded Artest of the Lakers’ losing record against the Trail Blazers in Portland, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t have paid any attention to it.
That’s just how Artest functions.
The Lakers had previously lost 15 of their last 18 games at the Rose Garden, their last victory coming on February 6, 2010. Neither Kobe Bryant nor Andrew Bynum played that night, yet the Lakers found a way to come together and win, Artest leading the way scoring a game-high 21 points.
It would be in Portland once again that Artest would be ignited, for what could very well be his best overall game in a Lakers uniform. He logged 24 points on eight-of-13 shooting, five-of-six from beyond the arc and put forth a good defensive effort with two steals. It wasn’t just about having an efficient game for Artest, but more about making the right plays at the right times.
While in the opening minutes, he started off a bit like he has for the majority of the season—lost—he later got into a groove, drained a crucial three-point shot late in regulation, hit another in overtime and had a key offensive rebound that all but sealed the Lakers 106-101 victory in the unlikeliest of places.
For the record, Bryant also had a lot to do with the win, but he’s the rule, not the exception.
It was a far cry from his recent string of lowlight performances, and the second straight night in a row that he would make a significant contribution on both offense and defense.
“That’s one of the better games he’s played,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after the game. “He’s shooting the ball better. The reality is, he made some good shots, some good things happened for him out there and het got confident and comfortable.”