The Odyssey of The TruWarrier

It’s the heart that allowed Artest, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, after taking one of the most ill-advised three pointers in the history of the league (a shot, I admit, Ariza would have never have taken) to stay focused on the task at hand. Many players

Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers action

would have curled into a ball and sulked on the sidelines after getting ripped by Phil Jackson. Instead? Artest was waiting in the wings, with the game–and perhaps the series–hanging in the balance–and when the Lakers biggest star came up short–there was Artest, more than ready to atone for his sins. That is mental toughness, the kind that champions have.

In 2008, the Lakers’ answer to the question, “Who’s sticking Paul Pierce tonight?” unfortunately, was “Vlad Radmonovic.” Ariza, despite returning from a broken foot for the series, always struggled against stronger athletes that could match his speed. The Lakers would have to take Kobe off of Rondo and Ray Allen to stick Pierce, and it just created all sorts of mismatches for the Celtics to exploit. The rest is history.

Game 1 of the 2010 Finals, however, was extremely different. “Ron Artest, former Defensive Player of the Year and one of the most feared players in the league” was the answer to “Who’s sticking Paul Pierce tonight?” And Artest’s game was basically a giant middle finger to the peanut gallery who thought he could never play a complimentary role.

Paul Pierce had 23 points, but it was probably the quietest 23 points I’ve ever seen. Twelve of those points came from free throws. Having an answer to Pierce allowed Kobe Bryant to concentrate on Rajon Rondo, and when Rondo is contained, the Celtics are extremely, extremely beatable.

The +/- stat is rather flawed, but it gives a very rough portrait to what happened when somebody was on the court. During Game 1, Artest was +26, the highest on the team. (Pierce was -13). Anytime something positive happened for the Lakers–there was Artest–his ungodly strong hands slapping at balls, forcing turnovers, making hustle plays, and generally frustrating the Celtics’ go-to scorer. It was the ultimate maestro game from Artest. A game in which every Celtics fan probably thought, “Dear God, we’re going to have to put out an APB for Pierce by Game 3. This will not end well.”
Next: On the verge of basketball immortality…

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