Not the haunting loss in last years’ NBA Finals. Not a Christmas day rematch with the Boston Celtics. Not a regular season face-off between Kobe and Lebron. Not the continuance of a four-year losing streak at the Rose Garden. Not a pesky Utah Jazz team in the first round. Not even a clichéd Lebron James running over Kobe Bryant in the MVP race.
In the span of just a few minutes, a crazed Ron Artest and a flopping Luis Scola managed to do something that nothing else this season has been able to:
Inflame some passion in this Lakers team.
Game 2 was the basketball version of Braveheart. For most of this season, the Lakers have been the peaceful, family-friendly, say the right thing version of William Wallace. During the third quarter of last night’s clash at Staples Center, Luis Scola and Ron Artest bullied the Lakers family. And in an instant, the Lakers transformed into the wreak havoc on England, leave no-one alive version of William Wallace.
For eighty-eight games this season, the Lakers have been simmering on the stove of greatness. Last night, the Houston Rockets turned up the flame and ripped the knob right off the stove.
Lamar Odom, for maybe the first time ever, donned the “F-you” face. Luke Walton jumped to L.O.’s defense and had a few choice words for Scola. Derek Fisher, one of the nicest guys in NBA history, dropped a Van Damme elbow in the chest of Scola. And Kobe Bryant shrugged off Ron Artest with an elbow of his own, not to mention trash talking with Shane Battier during his metamorphoses back into retro-killer-Kobe.
A handful of technical’s, a pair of ejections and a flagrant foul later, the Lakers went on to win the most important game they’ve played thus far in the season; but they didn’t just win on the scoreboard. Last season, when KG, Perkins, Pierce and the rest of the Boston Celtics bullied these same Lakers’, they folded faster than Ryan Leaf’s career. During the second half last night, the Lakers showed a toughness that wasn’t present last season.
We have waited all season for what the Lakers showed in the 3rd quarter last night. Some will say the Lakers lost their composure, I say they finally found it. Most will say D-Fish took a cheap shot, and while it certainly was a flagrant, I say it changed the whole energy of this Lakers team. Some will say Kobe’s elbow was out of line, and while it’s arguable if that was a flagrant or not, I say it just gave Kobe a reason to demolish the Houston Rockets.
For 24 minutes last night, the Lakers showed a certain passion that we have only seen in small doses this season. They were focused on wiping the floor with the Rockets, rather than on not blowing a big lead. They played with energy that we knew existed somewhere inside of them. The Staples Center crowd, for the first time since Christmas Day, put down their lattes and showed an invested interested in the game. And regardless of losing home-court with a game one loss, the momentum of this series has changed.
Even without Derek Fisher for game 3 on Friday, the Lakers will readily answer the only lingering question that really matters:
Was the second half of game 2 an aberration, or are those Lakers here to stay?
I can’t wait to find out.
Jason Riley is a columnist for the Lakers Nation. In addition to this column, he writes on an array of topics that you can check out by visiting J-Ri.com. You can email him by clicking here, or look him up on Facebook.