Houston’s Ron Artest will play in Game 4 against the Lakers

When told Saturday that his flagrant 2 foul had been downgraded to a flagrant 1, Houston’s Ron Artest was somewhat nonchalant when asked after practice what it meant to the combustible forward.

“Nothing. Nothing at all,” Artest said. “It don’t mean nothing to me. The game is more important.”

It means that Artest won’t be suspended for Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals today at the Toyota Center against the Lakers.


But the Rockets will not have center Yao Ming, who will be out the rest of the postseason after suffering a broken left foot. Rockets spokesman Nelson Luis confirmed Saturday night that an examination revealed that Yao had a hairline fracture and will be out eight to 12 weeks.

An NBA spokesman said the league reviewed the play by Artest in which he was ejected for a hard foul on Pau Gasol with 43.6 seconds left in the Lakers’ resounding 108-94 victory and deemed the foul to be a flagrant 1.

Gasol was driving for a layup late in the game when Artest knocked the Lakers center to the court.

The referees immediately called a flagrant 2 on Artest and reviewed the tape to see whether it should stand before ejecting Artest.

“It happened so fast, it’s a bang-bang play,” Rockets Coach Rick Adelman said. “Nowadays in our league, that’s cause for a flagrant foul. The referees told me he hit him in the head. But it was such a bang-bang play that I didn’t think there was any intention to hurt him. He just reacted to the play.”

It was the second consecutive game Artest was ejected from this series.

Artest was ejected in Game 2 after he and Kobe Bryant jostled for a rebound.

Artest was called for an over-the-back foul on the play, but Bryant struck him with an elbow.

Artest ran to the officials to complain and then ran and got in Bryant’s face before he was ejected.

The Lakers probably won’t like the ruling on Artest after Derek Fisher was suspended for Game 3 for striking Houston’s Luis Scola during Game 2.

Fisher will be back on the court for Game 4 today.


Take care

Without Yao, the Rockets obviously will be a smaller team and a quicker team.

But the big issues for the Rockets will be taking care of the basketball.

That hasn’t been the case in the first three games of the series.

The Rockets turned the ball over 18 times during their victory in Game 1, 20 times in Game 2 and 17 times in Game 3.

“The three games it’s been that way, even the game we won,” Adelman said.

“If we don’t correct that, we’re going to be in trouble. It gets [the Lakers] into the open court.”


What’s at stake

The Rockets know if they lose today and fall behind 3-1 in the series that the Lakers can close it out with a victory Tuesday at Staples Center.

That’s why winning Game 4 is so important to Houston.

“You want to make this a three-game series, that’s what you want to do,” Adelman said. “If it’s 2-2, anything can happen in a three-game series. So it’s just a matter of us going out and playing for 48 minutes.”