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Phil Jackson split on poor shooting from Ron Artest and Derek Fisher

April 22, 2010 | 10:32 am

The Lakers have shot 39.7% through the first two games of the NBA playoffs, but Coach Phil Jackson said he's not concerned with those numbers unless the team gets eliminated from the postseason. He believes the team just needs to build a rhythm, but the Lakers' perimeter shooting has been inconsistent most of the regular season. And with the Thunder blocking a 17 shots in Game 2 against the Lakers, a playoff record for Lakers opponents, Jackson knows the main challenge heading into Game 3 Thursday at Oklahoma City.

Sure, the Lakers now have a resurgent Kobe Bryant, who overcame his recent shooting struggles by leading a fourth-quarter charge in Game 2. They also have forward Pau Gasol, whose consistency has resulted in seven double doubles in the last nine games. And the Lakers' 2-0 lead suggests they should eliminate the Thunder, because a top-seeded team has never lost to an eighth-seeded team after winning the series' first two games. 

But Lakers center Andrew Bynum provides a perfect example on why the team could use another scoring option. He came back from an injury to his left Achilles' tendon without a hitch in Game 1, but the Oklahoma City defense locked down on him inside in Game 2, limiting him to six points on three-of-nine shooting. Though he expects to play in Game 3 despite missing Wednesday's practice to get more treatment, there's no telling how effective he could be Thursday night.

That means there are others who need to fill the void. Jackson has called out forward Lamar Odom, who is averaging 5.5 points and shooting 30.8% this series. But there are other struggling players in the lineup.  Forward Ron Artest may have locked down Thunder forward Kevin Durant to 28 points on 38% shooting along with six turnovers a game, but his numbers aren't much better. Sure, Artest isn't the main option on offense, but his six points per game average on 28% shooting has disrupted the triangle offense. Yet, Artest, who's been nursing sore fingers, downplayed any offensive problems and even suggested in the video below that his main concern involves his effectiveness on defense. When I followed up and asked if that means he's not really worried about his offensive numbers, Artest shrugged and didn't answer the question.

Artest isn't alone. Lakers guard Derek Fisher has shot six of 22 from the field (27%), an area in which he has struggled in all season (shooting 38%). For all the leadership presence he provides, Fisher hasn't shown leadership in his shooting numbers. There are times he forces the action in the lanes, and then there are times he's simply missing wide-open shots. But Fisher didn't seem a bit concerned either when asked about his shooting.

Interestingly, Jackson remained split on what to make of the recent performances from Artest and Fisher. He didn't come up with an explanation for Artest's poor shooting when asked about it, pausing before saying, "Good question." When I asked Jackson about Fisher's shooting, he expressed more confidence, perhaps because Fisher in last year's postseason worked himself out of his poor shooting. "I don't worry about Derek that much," he said. "He'll shoot himself out of it."

-- Mark Medina

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