Kobe vs. Artest boils over

By: 03.12.09  •  38 Comments

Kobe Bryant

Going into the second half of Rockets/Lakers, with Houston up double-digits, their play-by-play man called it early: “We’re going to get a lot of Kobe now.” Clyde Drexler gave his usual giggle of approval; no doubt he can recognize that crunch-time assassin’s look from 94 feet away. After a quiet start, Kobe cranked up the aggressiveness after the break, and when his physical head-to-head battle with Ron Artest finally boiled over midway through the fourth quarter — Kobe throwing an elbow away from the ball and both guys needing to be separated — he went into Takeover mode. Over the final 4:13 of the fourth quarter he scored 18 points on reverse layups, and-ones, pull-up J’s, threes and dagger free throws, finishing with 37 as the Lakers snapped the Rockets’ 12-game home winning streak … Holding a two-point lead after a Donaghy-esque foul call against Artest (more on that later), Kobe proceeded to ice it with a layup over Yao, a jumper over Artest, and then after Shane Battier switched over to guard him on a critical possession, baited him into a three-point play. When the Lakers were parading to the free throw line in the final seconds, Kobe and Artest were still talking sh*t to each other non-stop, Kobe’s swagger on about 1,500 while Ron had that Crazy-Person/Masochist Smile going, promising he’d see him later … Not to take anything away from Kobe’s performance, but the call that helped put L.A. ahead for good was crap. Tied up at the 2-minute mark, Kobe was being guarded by Artest (11 pts, 0-8 3PA, 6 stls, 6 turnovers) when Pau Gasol came over to set a pick. In the process of fighting through it, Artest used some dirty/cagey tactics, and Gasol responded in kind. Artest was whistled for a foul when no call should have been made on either side, and since that was Houston’s fifth of the quarter, Gasol went to the line for the go-ahead free throws … Yao (16 pts, 6 rebs) also deserves some blame. He was generally invisible during the game’s most important stretches, but really hurt the Rockets on two possessions late in the fourth; first when he failed to seal off Gasol and allowed him to intercept an entry pass, then on the next trip Yao missed a hook from point-blank range … The Rockets were in good shape following a 14-0 run in the second quarter, outplaying L.A. in every facet, led by Artest and a crew of role players: Landry, Scola, Wafer and Lowry. Kobe was on the bench for most of it, and although Phil wanted to get him in earlier, there was never a dead-ball. Instead of calling timeout, Jordan Farmar finally stopped the clock when he body-checked Lowry out of nowhere, probably after he looked over to the scorer’s table and saw Kobe with steam coming out of his ears … During that first-half run, Wafer tried to end DJ Mbenga‘s career with a potentially vicious cram, but DJ blocked it. “That’s what he does,” Drexler said. Nah, usually DJ gets yakked on … Josh Smith
(Speaking of career-ending dunks, did you see what LaMarcus Aldridge did to Erick Dampier? Just gross.) … The Jazz had their win streak snapped at 12 in Atlanta. And just like when ATL stopped the Hornets’ six-game streak the other night, the Hawks did it with defense. Over the last five minutes of the game Utah couldn’t buy a bucket; aside from some Ronnie Brewer free throws, they went 0-for-9 from the field with at least 3-4 turnovers, and the Hawks turned those long misses and mistakes into transition buckets … Earlier in the fourth, Josh Smith (22 pts, 12 rebs, 3 blks) came through the lane about to make somebody into a poster, and Kyle Korver was the only brave one standing there ready to take a charge. Smith got the dunk, and even graciously moved over a little mid-air so Kyle didn’t take the full junk-in-face … After Antonio McDyess knocked down a jumper to put the Pistons up three over the Knicks with 23 seconds left, Detroit announcer George Blaha declared, “Antonio McDyess now OFFICIALLY owns the night!” Too soon. With Detroit still holding that three-point lead with 10 seconds left, Larry Hughes shook himself free from Rip Hamilton and got up a three — and Rip fouled him in the process. Hughes went to the line and sent the game to overtime, where he, Q-Rich and Nate Robinson (30 pts) got New York the win … Despite the loss, McDyess was an animal. He grabbed 22 boards and scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, the most unlikely 20-20 of the season. Between McDyess’ stat line and Larry Hughes dropping buckets (22 pts), it was like a re-run from 2001 … Other big stat lines from Wednesday: Chris Paul posted 30 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists and four steals in a win at Washington; Dwyane Wade dropped 32 on the short-handed Celtics in a win; Devin Harris had 31 points, seven boards, 12 dimes and three steals in a loss at Golden State; Dirk Nowitzki had 29 and 10 boards in a win at Portland; Thaddeus Young scored 29 against the Raptors in a win; and Marcin Gortat (seriously) had 13 points and 15 boards as Orlando almost 30-pieced the Bulls. Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon went a combined 2-for-22 in the loss … Unedited update from Shaq‘s Twitter feed yesterday: “A Rastaman walks n2 a bank & hands the teller a bag of weed. She says ‘Sir, what is this 4?’ Da Rasta said, ‘Mi wan open a joint account!'” … That may have been topped only by this Andrew Bogut Tweet: “Come check out my appearance at Salentine Buick Pontiac in Muskego. I’ll be there today from 4-6pm!!!” Three exclamation points, Andrew? Dude must be bored out of mind injured in Milwaukee … We’re out like joint accounts …

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