Lamar Odom was back, shirt out, tongue-wagging, aggressive. Just like the Lakers needed him to be. And how, every time he plays like that, you can't imagine it being any other way.
Then, in as long as it took the Lakers to break for halftime, he was gone again. Ineffective, out-of-sync, and then finally, on the bench for the most important moments of the Lakers season.
After three games of contusions and confusion, Lamar Odom finally showed up for the Lakers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
For a half.
Then it was back to the contusions and confusion. And you had to wonder, was it better to have loved Odom, then lost one of the biggest leads in Finals history, than to have loved at all?
In the first half, he was brilliant. A perfect 7-for-7 from the floor, 15 points, three assists, eight rebounds. He got Pau Gasol involved, Vladimir Radmanovic involved, even made you forget that Kobe Bryant was having an awful night (0-for-4, three points, two turnovers).
In the second half, you barely even noticed he played 18 minutes. Odom took just four shots, made only one of them and grabbed two rebounds.
"I don't know what happened," Odom said. "I think it was just a lack of execution."
On most nights, with the Lakers holding a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter, Odom's tepid second half would've been forgotten.
But on a night when the Lakers blew one of the biggest leads in Finals history, when all of his teammates were having off-halves, and the Celtics came back from the dead like someone sent a shot of adrenaline straight into their hearts, it became Exhibit A in the first drafts of explanations of the Lakers' historic collapse.
In the first half, Odom had been the driver of the Lakers offense. He was aggressive, inspired and yes, a little relieved after a woeful Game 3 in which he shot just 2-for-9 from the field and scored just four points.
It started like all of Odom's big games do, with a dunk and a tongue-wag with 9:03 to go in the first quarter. On the next possession he made a slick reverse layup.
Then came the play where you knew he was really humming: Odom caught the ball at the top of the key, saw Kevin Garnett playing off of him, daring him to settle for a jump shot. Instead, he drove to the basket, drew a double team and found Radmanovic for a wide-open 3-pointer.
The ball was moving freely, the Lakers' stagnant, "obtuse" triangle offense finally looked elegant again.