Entering the playoffs versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers were struggling and were about to face a run-and-gun Thunder team. Some people actually doubted the Lakers in the series, even though the season series was won by the Lakers.

Game 1 in Staples Center was a very important battle. First, the Lakers would have a chance to take a series lead. Second, the Lakers would try to regain momentum and prove all doubters that they’re still the team to beat.

The game started off with the Lakers firing on all cylinders and took an early 27-13 lead. By halftime, the lead dwindled down to only an 8 point margin. However, a bright spot was that Kevin Durant, the league’s leading scorer, was being harassed and essentially shut down by Ron Artest.

From day one, Artest was expected to guard and stop an opponent’s superstar, and up until the playoffs, Ron was very inconsistent. However in Game 1, Artest finally showed up and Durant finished with 24 points — on 24 shots.

With the lack of proficiency from their best player, the Thunder never took the lead and lost the game 87-79. The Lakers took a 1-0 series lead by shooting 41% from the field, while limiting the Thunder to only 79 points.

Andrew Bynum put in 13 points and 12 rebounds in his first game back from injury and judging from his performance, someone may have thought that Bynum hadn’t missed a single game. “Conditioning for me, especially in the first quarter, was tough just coming back.” Bynum said on his first game back. He also added, “But I think it’s going to get better. Obviously just playing more minutes, keep it up. The coaches challenge me to play defense and then try to alter as many shots as possible and get every rebound; that’s really my focus.”

Although Andrew Bynum had an amazing return, the Lakers star Kobe Bryant still struggled from the field. The broken finger has caused Kobe to fall into a slump the past few games. In Game 1 the Black Mamba shot 6 of 19 and his struggles were clearly visible. “I think that he’s worked on his shooting.” Phil on Kobe’s shooting. “I think that some of his shooting looked okay at times today. I’m trying to convince him to take open shots. He had open looks that were pretty good. I thought that he tried to advance the ball a little bit too far at times on sequences and got himself in there.”

As Game 2 came along on Tuesday night, the Lakers were hoping to go into Oklahoma City up 2 games to none.

Reminiscent to Game 1, the Lakers opened up the game with a 26-18 lead but allowed the Thunder to sneak back into the game and take a 47-45 lead by halftime. Once again, the defensive maestro Ron Artest was making Durant earn all his shots and allowed no easy looks.

As the game progressed, the Lakers and Thunder exchanged leads and battled all the way to the final buzzer. With only 12 seconds left, the Lakers were ahead by 2, and the Thunder had possession. A screen was set off Durant, to open him up for a three. But Kevin hadn’t seen a good look all night and this situation was no exception; he missed the shot and the Lakers went on to win the game and take a 2-0 series lead.

Kobe Bryant put up 39 points and 5 rebounds, and his dad was one proud man.

The Lakers have a chance to win the series in Oklahoma City, and based on the performances in Staples, this seems very likely.

“We got to go on Thursday, ready to close out the series.” Says Bynum “Can’t let them gain any momentum. They’re going to be on, they’re going to be playing harder, more aggressive. And we just have to step up our defensive game up and keep them down.”

Expect two physical games in the Ford Center; we have come to known this season that every game must be taken serious and the Lakers can lose to any team.

Teams thrive when the defending championions are in town, and I believe the only way the Lakers regain that championship respect and fear in the opponent’s eyes are if they sweep the Thunder. We can accomplish this through heart, effort and of course the defensive presence of Ron Artest.

Follow Ramneet Singh on Twitter @RamneetKB24.

  • TOUCHING_MYSELF

    Ron Ron was instrumental in last night’s win! Even though Durant got his points, they didn’t come easy. Artest was groping and fondling the crap outta the youngster! Almost like a Catholic priest on a young alter boy! (Alright, the last sentence was outta line… and I appologize!)

    The Tru Warrior came through BIG! He was on Kevin Durant all night long, Durant probably felt like he just lost 245 lbs after the game. He got blocks, steals, poked the ball away from Durant during key moments of the game that just kept the momentum on the Lakers’ side! Our Head Case just helped us seal the series!

    GO RON RON!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    GO KOBE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    GO LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • LakerMarc

      Kobe was great Ron was not as effective as Sunday. Playoff games are about adjustments and Kevin adjusted and was successful at the expense of Artest. So Artest has to adjust to that for tomorrow night.

      • TOUCHING_MYSELF

        Nope! You can’t simply look at the scoring stat and say… well, Durant got his points, so he schooled Artest. Not at all! You’ve gotta take a look at the real stats of when Artest was on Kevin. He was under 50% while over 50% when other guys were on him. He ended with 12-26, which meant that Artest did his job!

        The Tru Warrior was leaching on Durant before he touched the ball, every time he was on the floor! The only “uncontested” shot was the 3 that Durant took at the end of the game which he MISSED!

        And it was because of Ron Ron’s mugging tactics that got Durant so frustrated that he pushed off on Pau and got him an offensive foul during the final minute of the game! Also, I know you saw Ron not give up on the play where he poked the ball away from behind and that led to the Shannon Brown fast break which he made 1 of 2 free throws.

        Artest, of course, didn’t SHUT Durant down per say, but all of his defensive tactics worked and even when he “didn’t” stop home boy from scoring in the final stat sheets, he did plenty to STOP Durant!

        Can’t just look at the stats to see how effective a guy was on the defensive end of the floor, you gotta watch the game! And yes, OKC will try to adjust for Ron and I’m sure that Ron will have to adjust his game too, but that’s just basketball… a game of match ups and adjustments. But, you can’t take away or belittle what Ron Ron had done on defense against Durant in game two!

  • jonb

    well ive come to the conclusion that the lakers have to rely on defense every game because if its a nonfactor then were screwed. Our guys cant shoot – ron and fish mostly but lamar has to be more aggressive offensively. Its just sad, i mean only one change from last season and weve become a horrible offensive group. At least kobe got his rythm back in the second half. But all this shooting stuff makes me wonder, DO SHOOTING SLEEVES REALLY HELP? if they do, somebody order some for this lakers squad please.

    • 09champs!

      I use a sleeve and it works LOL
      Although Ron and Fish didn´t shoot very well in the last 2 games, I still have a lot of confidence in Fish shooting threes and Ron working in the post, so if you keep getting them the ball, they´ll get it together.
      Plus, we have to remember Ron is using his energy and focus on stopping the league´s leading scorer (sorry Lebron, i know you wanted to win it badly) ;)

      Its all good in LA LA LAND, 14 to REPEAT.

  • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/the-purple-line/ Ramneet Singh

    Ron is the key in this series

  • GoldMamba

    The coach of the year i think will let westbrook play it more loose since there is no one that can guard him on the G spot except kobe. So i expect him to be involved more on pick and rolls and more transition offense…Shannon better be ready coz we need him…as for Durantala, ron has owned him!!

  • only one laker fan

    Kobe try passing the ball we have two 7 foot dudes that nobody can even play.
    The ball needs to go inside then out.
    Play Shannon more on Westbrook to make him wear out then let Fisher get him in the 4th.
    Farmar,Luke,Powell, La mar when your in the game DO
    SOMETHING.
    We need to finish these young guys now.
    Phil make some changes in the offense.
    Pass more shot less.

    • TOUCHING_MYSELF

      He did pass the ball! How about the 7 footers actually try to DUNK the ball instead of LAY UPS? 17 blocks! That’s friggin ridiculous! Kobe took over the game when it counted and WON the game for us, and that’s good enough for me! Plus if Kobe only plays the facilitator then they would know not to double Kobe and then there wouldn’t be any open looks for the 7 footers down low and no passing lane!

      I do agree to have Shannon play Westbrook more and let Fish try him in the 4th! And also that Farmar, Luke, LO, and Powell need to produce when they’re in the game! Hahaha!

      Phil needs to start coaching now! Stop this zen master sh!t and draw up some plays! He needs to make adjustments on the offense to give the OKC a different and unpredictable look to throw them off! 17 blocks! Again, that’s RIDICULOUS!

      GO KOBE!!!!!!!!!
      GO RON RON!!!!!!!!!
      GO PAU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      GO LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • only one laker fan

    Good to see some one on the same page.
    What I was getting at remeber the old days with Shaq the ball would go in then back out.
    It was boring but it worked. The defense was not able to gaurd Shaq one on one,so it always left a shooter open.
    How ever the shooters we have keep putting bricks up.
    I agree Phil needs to start coaching the other night he asked Frank Hamlin if the blocks was a record.
    Well if it was or not make adjustments.
    Plus Frank is a drunk we see him in Santa Monica in the afternoon shit faced alot.
    Phil seems like he justs wants to get paid and blame the team .
    Why does he never yell at La mar who puts less effort than anyone out on the court.