Artest not playing by the numbers
Ron Artest doesn’t have a template for what he believes makes for a successful series. Much of what he has contributed doesn’t appear on the stat sheet.
He has been primarily responsible for guarding Paul Pierce. In the first three games of the Finals, Pierce was held to 36 percent shooting (13 of 36). But Artest’s offensive contributions have been up and down. He scored in double digits only once in four games (15 points in Game 1) and had converted 32 percent of his shots, 29 percent from the 3-point line.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Artest needs to “find a shot and get consistent with it.’’ Artest came into last night’s Game 5 averaging 10.8 points in the playoffs. With center Andrew Bynum limited because of a knee injury, the Lakers could use a little more production out of Artest, but he is keeping it in perspective.
“We need [Bynum] on the team,’’ Artest said. “But it’s OK, things happen, and we just do it together. We score as a team, play defense as a team. Whoever scores, that’s depending on what night it is. You don’t need to force the issue.’’
Guard Derek Fisher said if the Lakers are not running their offense, opportunities are limited.
“We’re trying to continue to make sure that we push him and encourage him to be himself and take Ron Artest-type opportunities when they’re out there and at the same time recognize that we have a system of doing things and a way of doing things that are supposed to provide those opportunities,’’ Fisher said. “We haven’t done some things as a team that make it easier for everybody to kind of play their game. We struggled in those games when Kobe’s had to carry the load. We’re more successful when everybody is chipping in.’’
Although Artest is playing a smaller role than he is used to in his 11-year career, he has embraced the situation. When his shots haven’t fallen — he was 1 for 10 in Game 2 — Artest has increased his energy on the defensive end. When questions come up about Artest’s reputation, his teammates back him up.
“We’ve found Ron to be a great teammate and a guy that has made as much or more of a sacrifice as anybody on our team this season in terms of just trying to fit into the big picture of things,’’ said Fisher. “It’s helped put us in a position where we’re two wins away from winning a title and I think if we can win this thing that would answer the question of whether Ron Artest is misunderstood, because a lot of people for years felt like any team Ron is on doesn’t have a chance to win because he’s going to mess it up. If anything, he’s done a great job of putting us in this position.’’