Artest Saves the Day, Fined the Next
But that didn't stop the Lakers' forward from being fined an undisclosed amount for showing up about a half-hour late for practice Friday morning, the day before the Lakers meet the Suns in Phoenix in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. Artest hit a putback shot at the buzzer in Game 5 to give the Lakers a 103-101 win and a 3-2 series lead.
"It was just one of those nights,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Artest being late. "I think (Artest) was just so excited after the game that all that processing and things that were on the board (in the locker room) there didn't all register.''
Artest said Friday the Lakers were "at a high for 30 to 40 minutes'' after his game-winning shot and then were able to "settle down.'' So Artest claimed he still wasn't walking on air Friday.
"That can drain you,'' he said. "Being that high can drain you.''
Or, as far as Jackson is concerned, make you late for practice the next day.
But the Lakers, who got the unlikely game-winner when Artest rebounded a three-point airball by Kobe Bryant, insist they will be focused for Game 6. They remember well losing Games 3 and 4 by nine points apiece at US Airways Center.
"We don't plan on going to Phoenix and losing three times on their home court,'' Jackson said. "We're not making this trip over there just to fill a date. We're going over there to win a game. We're highly motivated for this game. But we understand if it has to go seven, we're be ready to come back home (Monday) and defend our court again.''
Phoenix guard Steve Nash is expecting the series to go seven. He told reporters after Thursday's game, "They held home court. We'll go back and do the same and we'll come back here for Game 7.''
Artest took the comments as Nash giving the Lakers "no respect.'' Jackson, though, just shrugged.
"What else is he going to say? That we're going to go home and lose,'' Jackson said.
The Suns vowed after practice Friday in Phoenix they will be able to bounce back from the devastating defeat. As for the Lakers, they believe it can put an extra bounce in their step.
"We're very, very happy to win and have the lead that we have right now (in the series),'' said Lakers forward Pau Gasol. "It puts us in position to be able to go to Phoenix and give another great effort and give ourselves a chance to close the series.''
If that happens Saturday, the Lakers will face Boston in the NBA Finals starting Thursday. After practice Friday, before the Celtics eliminated Orlando hours later to win the East, Lakers center Andrew Bynum was already talking about wanting to face Boston.
That was perhaps much to the chagrin of Jackson, who chastised Bynum for talking about the Celtics earlier in the week. But at last Bynum showed up for practice on time Friday.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson