It drew our awareness in Game 2 of the 2009 NBA playoffs when irritable mood swings flared into a physical skirmish between the Lakers and Rockets. It was like a wrestling match and things turned warlike with massive forearms thrown, hard fouls, trash talk and a short tempered Ron Artest getting in the face of Kobe Bryant. It drew our interest as it seemed this was actuality a series the Lakers in likelihood could lose. For awhile, Houston was more physical, more anxious, more driven and more perilous. It led to assertive talk on if the Lakers weren’t as good as the paper shows, which reinforced chatter about the Rockets, who had the urge and dirtiness in Game 1 and Game 2, though they couldn’t pull away with a double steal on the Lakers on floor in the second game of the tense series.

No member of the Lakers was intimidated nor was insulted by the Rockets contempt. Maybe in part to a message sent in Game 2 when Derek Fisher lost self-control, throwing his forearm at the Lakers-agitator Luis Scola, who was sent to the ground. Maybe the Lakers were vulnerable in the series-opener to grasp a feel of Houston, or it could have just been a poor night. Whatever it was they played like the intimidating ones in the series Friday night, making things vulnerable for players like Artest. As it seems there’s not a game progress, without foolish or sinful physical contact committed by a troubling Artest, who lobbied Bryant should have been suspended for Game 3, after throwing an intentional elbow at him which tempered and provoked him to meet Bryant for a facial stare down at half court.

It resulted in a minor punishment, a flagrant foul, and penalty one when many agreed it should have resulted in a suspension. Immediately following the in-your-face encounter, Artest was tossed from the game, a pattern that has followed him in the series when he was ejected in Game 3 after a flagrant 2 foul to send Pau Gasol crashing to the hardwood. Either way you look at this series both teams are liable for their dirty habits. And let’s not buy into the bias that the Lakers are saints or immaculate in a meeting that emerged into a bitter and physical one.

But even though the vantage resided in the Rockets favor, it’s over as they languished into the background and the Lakers control fate, down a game with two more wins to clinch the series. In a hostile environment, they can pommel the Rockets and minimize the “Beat L.A.,” and been without Fisher doesn’t affect the outcome or hinges the refs calls. Whenever there’s a reliable substitute to take over at the point guard position, starting in the place of a suspended Fisher there’s not much concern. Jordan Famer seized heroics firmly, and presumably earned Phil Jackson’s trust and made the most of his brilliant start with 12 points and seven assists, including a race and dived for a loose ball and dished it off to Trevor Ariza for a captivating dunk, to intensify momentum and pugnacity. With much pugnacious ethos, the Lakers contain an ample of fundamental fragments assembled as fundamentally sound and perilous. But people worshiped the Rockets as if they were the powerhouses to win the series because of the Lakers defaults in the opening game. For much of the series politics have surrounding the Lakers and Rockets, either by the controversial calls made by officials, dirty contact or debates on which team is athletic to advance.

A legitimate answer was validated when the Lakers propelled to a 108-94 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the series, indications that the series is over. And no bloody faces or dirty fouls were necessary just another solid scoring tear and two pivotal block shots of Yao Ming. With his inability, the Rockets aren’t as dynamic and forceful, to pommel and navigate through the playoffs. Since Game 1, he has been bothered with a sore left ankle and in the final minutes limped as leaving the court. No empathy when Bryant levitated to deny the ailing seven-footer on a night he scored 33 points and gave Artest sorts of trouble when he broke away to bury a 33 footer to end the third quarter. This is what wins championships, when splendid at all angles and it’s what snapped the Rockets nine-game winning streak at home, what forced them into 17 turnovers and what built a 20 point lead for the Lakers, a team back in usual form, championship form.

Fisher haven’t missed much back at the team hotel in his room sending messages through via Twitter, saying “they responded like champions and that is what this is all about: winning a championship.”

Indeed, it was championship bound.


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