The Playboy Mansion Pays Off and Ron Artest Returns To Sac-Town

04.10.09 10 years ago 43 Comments

It turns out that Playboy Mansion rehabilitation isn’t a bad idea after all. Andrew Bynum came back from a 32-game hiatus, some of which was spent with a playmate on his shoulders, looking like he’d been spending his time training down at USC with Pete Carroll. It wasn’t just the Matt Leinart knee brace – it was that Bynum seemed even stronger than he was before his knee gave way. Nene, who is by all accounts an ox, couldn’t stop Bynum from planting himself inside the low the block whenever he wanted to in the second half. He could’ve gone for more than 16 points (13 in the second half) and 7 boards, but he followed Phil Jackson‘s orders to focus on defense and rebounding at the start of the game and “let the scoring come naturally.”… With Bynum monopolizing Nene’s attention on both ends of the floor, Pau Gasol was able to run free on the offensive glass. Well, that was part of the reason. The other was that Birdman Andersen was playing like a kid with ADD, whose only focus in the universe was to take a full volleyball swing at every shot he saw. He sold out on a bunch of plays to help weakside, allowing Gasol to grab 11 offensive boards and 19 total on the night… The dominance of L.A.’s bigs inside overshadowed a crazy efficient night from Kobe. He was in Mamba-mode, getting baskets in response to anything that Denver mustered offensively so that they were trapped in a 10-point purgatory for the entire night. In the first half, ‘Melo muscled through the heart of the Laker defense and flipped up a finger roll for a tough deuce. Bryant demanded the inbounds pass, rushed the ball across halfcourt, and then blew past Linas Kleiza for a tough lay-in under the rim less than six seconds after Anthony’s bucket. Later in the 4th, Nene cut the lead under 10 with some free throws. So Kobe came back with six straight Laker points, one of which was a crazy rip through against Chauncey on a jab step into an off-balance 17-foot bank shot. It was one of those, “You’ve got to be f-ing with me?!?” makes. With Kobe and J.R. Smith on the floor at the same time, you’ve got two of the best off-balance shooters in the League today… Ultimately, this game wasn’t just a triumphant return for the Lakers’ big man. In front of a star-studded L.A. crowd of Jack, Diane Keaton, Dr. Dre, and some other regulars, it was a reminder of just how much better the Lakers are than the rest of the West. Without Manu Ginobili, or as Charles Barkley insisted on calling him tonight over and over again, GINOBILI!!, the Spurs’ fear factor is diminished. The Nuggets didn’t have K-Mart, but they were so thoroughly worked over tonight, it’s tough to say that one player would’ve made a big difference. We could go team-by-team, but as Kenny Smith said in the post-game, “Forget all this first-round talk. Who are the Lakers matching up against in the Western Conference Finals?”… In one of the only other two games going on tonight, the Bulls answered the question on the mind of everyone in Cleveland, Boston and Orlando: which Eastern Conference bottom-seed do we want to face the least? In the first half, the Bulls couldn’t make up their mind whether they really wanted to show up. They got down 9-2, playing horrendous interior defense. Reggie Evans nearly went coast-to-coast on a play before bricking a lay-up. Tyrus Thomas even side-rimmed a sick ‘oop feed from Derrick Rose (16 points, 8 assists) in the early-going. But before the first 24 minutes came to a close, Ben Gordon (24 points, 4 treys, 7 boards) – in some candy apple green Hyperdunks to go with NBA’s Green Week – sunk back-to-back treys in 20 seconds, tying the game at 46-46… But in the second half, the Bulls made a complete mockery out of Philly. Rose had Andre Miller stuck in the mud, and it felt like every time he got in the lane, Rose zipped a laser beam back out to someone spotting up at the three point line. Brad Miller was wetting mid-range J’s and feeding Gordon for open looks. It was almost as if the smart extra passes were contagious for the Bulls. Even Tyrus Thomas (24 points, 4 boards) got in on the action. He made a number of smart plays – one was passing up an open 18-footer for a 12-footer, which he sank. And on another, he and Miller played a two-man game, getting Brad a tough reverse lay-up off a bounce pass. And for every efficient Chicago possession, Philly seemed to come back down on the other end and get Andre Miller leaning in from 17-feet to front-rim a shot. That’s a recipe for a 20-piecing… In Ron Artest‘s return to ARCO Arena, he was cheered during the pre-game shoot-around. But Artest played like a hired gun without any real emotion for the place that he spent more than two years in. He went 10-18 from the floor for 26 points, and said after the game, “What I’m thinking about right now is the next game, not about coming back here to play or what this game means in the standings.” Jason Thompson put up 10 points and 6 boards in the 1st quarter, but once he cooled off, Sacramento fell way back… In the Portsmouth Invitational’s second day – the draft camp for the lower-profile prospects, Jon “Snohomish” Brockman stood out with a 24-point, 21-rebound performance. Central Florida’s Jermaine Taylor went for 30. But most other big names disappointed: Ronald Steele scored 8 points in two games, Ben Woodside only mustered 7 points in his first game, and Kyle McAlarney went 1-6 from three… We’re out like Ron from Sac-town…

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