Reporting from Boston -- The Lakers had just cut a 12-point lead down to five points, the momentum in Game 5 of the NBA Finals suddenly shifting away from the Celtics, the opportunity to keep Boston reeling presented to Ron Artest when he stepped to the free-throw line.
Make two free throws and the Celtics' lead is sliced to three points. Miss two free throws and the Celtics get a reprieve.
Artest was unable to deliver, which was just another moment in the game in which the 6-7 forward failed to help the Lakers in the pivotal game of the best-of-seven series.
And after the Lakers lost to the Celtics, 92-86, Sunday night at TD Garden, after he scored just seven points on two-for-nine shooting, made just one of four free throws, grabbed just two rebounds, scored just seven points and lost in his matchup against Boston's Paul Pierce, Artest stuck to his familiar refrain.
After all 82 regular-season games and now all 21 playoff games, Artest has maintained he was not looking back, that now he is looking ahead to Game 6 Tuesday night at Staples Center.
"I just got to keep on moving on," Artest said. "Good or bad, I've got to move on. I've still got a game to play."
That next game is the biggest of the season so far for the Lakers and Artest.
The Lakers return home down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, a win away from pushing it to Game 7, a loss away from giving up their championship to the Celtics.
Artest had a chance to put the Lakers in position to keep walking down the Celtics when he stepped to the free-throw line for two shots with 43.3 seconds left and the Lakers trailing, 87-82.
He had already missed one of two about a minute earlier when the Lakers trailed by 10 points.
Now Artest was given another opportunity after Derek Fisher outjumped Kevin Garnett on a jump ball.
Artest had what looked like a breakaway layup, but Pierce tracked Artest down and fouled him. Artest then missed both free throws.
"It was tough," said Artest, who is making just 46.7% of his free throws in the Finals. "You want those to go down. I've got to get to the free-throw line a little bit earlier in the game so I can get to the free-throw line and make my free throws. I should have made them anyway. I had four chances to make free throws. Next time I'll knock them down."
Artest's primary job is to contain Pierce. But he even had trouble doing that in Game 5. Pierce had 27 points on 12-for-21 shooting.
"Defensively, I was not consistent for the whole game," Artest said. "I don't know if Pierce hit tough shots or if I was playing bad defense. It was one of those two. I've got to change that."
In three games here, Artest shot 30.4% from the field, 25% from three-point range, 40% from the free-throw line and averaged just six points and four rebounds.
Buy NBA Finals tickets here
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.