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NBA Finals 2010: Ron Artest Needs To Play Big in L.A.

Bernie DawkinsCorrespondent IJune 15, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics looks to move the ball in the first quarter against Ron Artest #37 of the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Two of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 6, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Many felt the Los Angeles Lakers acquisition of Ron Artest last summer only improved their championship roster.

Artest was perceived by many as a significant upgrade, both defensively and offensively, over the guy he was essentially swapped for, Trevor Ariza, who landed in Houston.

Five games into the NBA Finals, that myth has been debunked.

Instead, Artest has been downright awful against Boston and is a major reason why the Lakers head back to Hollywood facing a 3-2 deficit.

With Artest, it all starts with defense, and defensively, he's been a huge disappointment.

For the most part part he has struggled in his match-up with Paul Pierce, who has had an MVP-like performance up to this point in the series. Pierce had his way with Artest in Games 4 and 5, going off for 46 points on 19-33 from the field.

Now obviously not all those points were scored against Artest, but it sure seemed like most of them were, and the fact of the matter is, Pierce has decisively gotten the best of a guy that was brought in to be a shutdown, perimeter defender.

The truth is (pun intended), Artest really isn't a premier, on-ball defender anymore, and he hasn't been for a couple years. Those days are gone.

Through isolations and off the pick and roll, Pierce has exploited the vulnerabilities in the 2010 version of Artest. Pierce has been able to keep Artest on his heels and has shown the ability the past two games to get exactly where he wants to be on the floor in order to execute his step-back jumper, which has been on.

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In fact, it got so bad in Game 5 that Kobe Bryant asked to guard Pierce, which speaks volumes about Artest's current abilities as a defender and perhaps the move as a whole.

The simple fact is that Artest is not the great defender anymore who can shut down a player of Pierce's caliber for an entire series. Don't get me wrong, he still brings a lot to the table. He's a competitor. He's physical. He's tough. He's just not the guy he was when he won the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year. And he's certainly not playing like the defensive stopper he was brought in to be this year for the Lake Show.

That's the truth, but it gets worse.

Because as much as Artest has struggled with his defense on Pierce, it has been even more of a struggle on the offensive end for him.

He's just killing the Lakers with his inefficiency on offense and has given them practically nothing for the majority of five games.

Artest is averaging just 7.8 points in the Finals while shooting 30.2 percent from the floor and 27.9 percent from downtown. None of these numbers are remotely good.

But he's not just missing wide open 3-pointers, he's also living up to his reputation as a ball-stopper extraordinaire, which has limited the effectiveness of the Western Conference champion's triangle offense.

Artest gets the ball and you can just sense that something bad or unexpected is about to happen, and it usually does.ย  It could be in the form of an ill-advised jack from downtown, or maybe as something as simple as a dribble off the foot. Stuff like this happens on the regular with Artest when he has the ball, and it's fun to anticipate these Artest "uh-oh" moments, especially as the pressure builds in the postseason.

The point is Artest has been a liability on both sides of the ball against the Celtics and through five games, it's safe to say that the addition of Artest hasn't panned out for the Lakers the way many thought it would.

Sometimes the truth hurts.

Artest is going to have to elevate his game quickly if the Lakers are to win the next two and defend their title

This could happen. After all, it's Artest. Anything is possible.

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