From New Orleans
Ron Artest spent an edgy Thursday night, uneasy in the Big Easy, fearing his upcoming descent into a Hornets nest.
Or something like that.
"Now that Pluto is no longer a planet, does that mean I'm not sexy anymore?" Artest tweeted. "I'm a Scorpio, I think I have lost my mojo."
A day later, to the relief of astronomers and astrologists everywhere, he found it.
"In New Orleans and we have to play our best game of the series tonight to get the win," he tweeted Friday afternoon. "Time to go Loco."
So the Lakers did, following King Loco's lead, blowing away the Hornets in the third game of a first-round series that should have been this easy from the start, and will be finished very soon. It was Lakers 100, Hornets 86, and, yeah, our hero knew it.
"When things go loco, they go pretty good," Artest said afterward with a grin.
Loco, as in Artest setting the tone by scoring seven of his nine points in the first quarter, including a slam dunk and swiping gesture that brought the screaming wrath of thousands of yellow shirts.
"This series started very soft," he said. "But now you can see it coming around."
Loco, as in Kobe Bryant touching all the bases with Matt Kemp drama — he had an old-school soaring slam, four treys, 30 total points, and led a suffocating defense that helped hold Chris Paul to one second-half basket.
"I just went out there and played my game," Bryant said, and man, did he ever.
Paul, meanwhile, was still being swarmed afterward, as his young son began crying while sitting on his knee during the postgame news conference. The child was eventually taken away by a team trainer. If only quieting the renewed Laker defense were so easy.
"It's not a good feeling," said the Hornets' Trevor Ariza. "We have to be the team that hits them first."
Not on this night, not after two Laker home games that reeked of complacency, one of which actually crumbled into a loss. Don't expect that to happen again. The Lakers take a two-games-to-one lead into Sunday's Game 4 here, with Game 5 being the likely clincher Tuesday at Staples Center.
Just remember the words of the Scorpio.
"I walked into the locker room before the game and I told Pau [Gasol] it was time to elevate and he said, 'Yeah, we're going loco,'" Artest repeated.
Oh, yeah, Gasol went more loco than anybody, breaking out of his two-game slump in the fourth quarter by muscling his way to a 22-foot jump shot. You might have guessed it was only his second three-pointer this season.
The shot was part of a stretch in which Gasol scored nine of the Lakers' 11 points to seal the victory, and Bryant said what everyone was thinking.
"It's just a matter of him finding a comfort zone out there," said Bryant. "I didn't expect him to find it out on the three-point line."
During Gasol's stretch, the only other Laker basket was a last bit of loco, a three-pointer by Steve Blake, his first playoff basket as a Laker after recovering from a big battle with chickenpox and perhaps a little fight with his nerves.
Said Artest: "We even got Steve Blake throwing it in out there."
Said Blake: "We have to stay focused."
Even the stoic Jackson finally seemed intent Friday on making sure that focus stayed strong. With 9:19 remaining in the third quarter, the coach actually stood up and marched out to midcourt to question a technical foul call on Derek Fisher — and, no, I had never seen him venture that far off the bench either.
"That's an exaggerated posture for me," Jackson acknowledged with a smile.
When he returned to the bench, he was full of exaggerated applause, actually leaning toward the court and banging his hands together, actually exhorting his team. As quick as you can say Who is that strange man,? the Lakers turned a six-point lead back into a 10-point lead, continuing to thump the pulse for a game that was never in question.
"It was a mind-set," said Jackson.
The way this series started, who better than Artest to quantify that mind-set? Even after mourning the temporary loss of his mojo Thursday night, he finished the evening with a tweet that spoke of the sort of unshakable belief that Lakers fans must possess to survive these strange times.
Or something like that.
"OK, I'm going to bed, but please make how sexy I am the talk of the night," he tweeted. "Do yal like how the sweat drips from my biceps? OK Goodnight."
Good … sigh … night.