Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Pau Gasol drove in but fell short on his fingerroll. Offensive rebound – Ron Artest. With a new shot clock, the Lakers had another chance to score, but Gasol missed the jumper…and Artest grabbed another offensive board.

Those were the only two rebounds that Ron Artest had in this game, but it’s not so much the quantity but the quality of these boards that made all the difference for the Lakers. The loss in Dallas was a senseless one, especially since they knew they had the struggling Mavericks on their heels after they’d taken a double-digit lead. But the Lakers lost their focus, and it cost them the game. That was not the case tonight and Artest’s alertness in grabbing those two offensive boards was a tell-tale sign.

In the first half, it looked like Arron Afflalo would be the Lakers’ killer for the game. They have one in every game it seems. With Ron Artest providing some solid defense on Carmelo Anthony, and neither Chauncey Billups, Nene nor the Denver bench putting up much of a challenge, it was the UCLA product putting up the points. Afflalo, despite having to chase Kobe Bryant around, still had the energy and wiles to put up 16 first-half points, taking 4-5 from behind the arc all thanks to some slow Laker defense. But then came the second half, and unlike the game against Dallas, the Lakers actually regained their focus and execution on both ends if the floor, rather than letting it slide.

Kobe Bryant, whose field goal efficiency has grown over the last month, went off in the third. Rather than force his shot against Afflalo or the rest of Denver’s “defense,” Bryant simply let his fancy footwork and his passing do the heavy lifting. He dribbled baseline, passing right under the hoop, then quickly turned around, faster than Afflalo could react, to score on a stepback fall-away. Later on, he rebounded his own miss, then finished that possession with a drive and pass to Lamar Odom for an easy bucket. He shot over J.R. Smith like he wasn’t even there. Bryant scored 14 points in the third alone, en route to his 18 points on 8-15, adding seven assists and six rebounds to his stat line. He’s a different player when he’s not forcing his offense; or rather when he’s not feeling forced to force his offense. Bryant has been distributing the ball early in the game, making it a point to make sure his teammates are involved first before he makes his mark and it’s apparent in the balance of point totals.

The Laker bigs played much bigger than their Denver adversaries. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom each had a double-double, and together with Andrew Bynum, contributed 54 points on 24-39, 30 rebounds and six assists. It was nice to see Gasol so aggressive all around; at one point stealing the ball then taking it all the way to the other end to dish to Ron Artest for a layup. He tossed floaters against the glass, put back missed shots and just looked engaged and determined.

Andrew Bynum, despite the presence of official Leon “Are You Serious” Wood on the floor, played all the way to his fourth foul, scoring 17 points on 7-11, grabbing seven rebounds, and blocking two shots. He converted a lob from Bryant, put back a missed Shannon Brown attempt, and even hit a turnaround flat-footed “jumper” over Carmelo Anthony. Wearing a thick sleeve over his hyper-extended right elbow, Bynum produced more than just offense – he was keen on defense as well, refusing to be intimidated by Denver’s Nene.

Lamar Odom…was just being Lamar Odom. The guy is the epitome of efficiency this season and tonight was no different. He scored on mid-range jumpers, converted a lob from Shannon Brown, jump-hooked and was always at the right place to receive passes from his teammates. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and finished the evening with zero turnovers.

The real difference-maker in this game for the Lakers, however, was Ron Artest. Assigned to ‘Melo watch since he arrived in L.A., Artest has made Anthony work for every point he’s scored. Tonight Anthony got his 23 points, but it took him 24 shot attempts to get there. And you’d think that guarding Anthony all evening would omit his offense, but Artest chipped in 19 points on 8-12. His defense has been more aggressive and attentive, and his offense is finally starting to flow.

Tonight was a good win for the Lakers. Their offensive attack was balanced (five players in double figures, 24 assists on 47 makes, and 53.4% shooting), their effort was consistent (out-rebounding Denver 47-27), and their defense was concerted and focused (keeping Denver below their 107.1 ppg, 1st in the NBA).

If the Lakers play with this type of focused intensity and effort, they won’t lose…to anyone. Fortunately for them, unlike the Denver Nuggets, there is only one mission in mind this season – win another title.

Box Score
Pre-game Thoughts:
Let’s see how distracted Denver really is. If there’s a team in the league who is ALWAYS ready when the Lakers are in town, it’s the Nuggets.
Half-time Thoughts: 52-49 – Phil Jackson’s been taking timeouts after defensive lapses lately. He took 2-3 timeouts in just the first half tonight. The Lakers continue to leave shooters wide open and Arron Afflalo is one benefactor of these defensive deficiencies. He’s already got 16 points, 4-5 from 3PT. Carmelo Anthony is just 4-13 from the field for his 11 points, thanks to his shadow, Ron Artest. The Laker bench leads the Denver reserves 19-8 – a bright spot! If the Lakers don’t want to start another losing streak, they absolutely have to close in on those shooters. As evident in the Dallas game, the threeball can make all the difference for a team.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Shannon Brown and Steve Blake – The Lakers’ two back-up guards MUST regain their game from the start of the season. Yes, it’s good to dictate the offense and yes, it’s good to put forth effort on defense, but with Matt Barnes out, the reserves have to get more production beyond Lamar Odom.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Ron, Ron, Ron – The things you do to Carmelo Anthony’s game. As if the man wasn’t distracted enough already.

  • KILLUMANTI

    I JUST LEANED THAT KOBE IS A DEVIL WORSHIPING ILLUMINATI. I LIKED KOBE BUT NOW THIS BOTHERING ME VERY MUCH.

    • LC09

      LOL WTFFFFFFF

      • Lakers4life

        its true check it out on the internet

        • SHOWTIME2011

          I did not want to believe it but i did a little research and its true from what i see.

          • SHOWTIME4EVA

            I don’t think Kobe sold his soul.he workes way to hard,playing all busted up..he ain’t getting no help from the devil.lifes not easy doing Kobes job.

  • KILLUMANTI

    i dont like it. How do you guys feel about a devil worshiper that wants to be worshipped. Carmelo needs to come to the Clippers so we can have a variety to choose from.

  • KILLUMANTI

    check this video to see what i m talking about.

    • lakers

      no he is not thats BS!

      • Lakers4life

        its true check it out on youtube

        • 242LakerFan

          Wow, it IS true!!! And Ron Artest doubles as the Tooth Fairy in the off-season between gigs. And Phil Jackson used to be one of the Jackson 5 in their early days. And Dr. Buss was part of the original group of aliens who came down in the Space Wheel and stole the Lindberg baby! And Chick Hearn isn’t dead. He’s living in a gated community hidden deep in the Iowa cornfields along with Biggie, Tupac, Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa.
          It’s ALL just as true! I saw it on the internet, so who can argue!!??

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  • SHOWTIME4EVA

    ANYWAYY! we played good again.I was pretty sure we would seems like we can turn it off and on.I hope this doesn’t mean we are consistently inconsistent. Pau played like a tough guy that’s what we need.rons stepping his game up too. GO LAKERS!

  • KILLUMANTI

    kobe is devil worshiping illuminati check it on youtube

    • LakerMarc

      ridiculous!

      • SHOWTIME2011

        check out the video i m sorry to say but he is from his actions

    • trippleoccho

      OK WE HEARD YOU, JEEEZ

  • daboss1848

    A win results in no comments, no support, no congratulations . . . A loss? Well, its the end of the world as we know it (for you REM fans) – PJ rotations suck, Gasoft, Fish sucks, trade Bill, KB old, etc.
    .
    Great game – KB was an absolute surgeon out there on offense – patient, picking, choosing, dissecting. Beautiful to watch genius at work!!

    • Get Like Me

      yep that’s what they do when we win They shut the fuck up
      But when we lose They flood the comment board because they aint real fans they day and night fans

      But with all that said A good win for us next in scope is Utah

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      I think people feel the need to vent when the lakers lose. When they win, there’s nothing to vent about. Though I do wish we could all rejoice together after victories instead of getting so catty after losses.

      • LakerMarc

        Anna..in your infinite wisdom I must admit you are right. I for one have been very vocal to this effect here on TLN but I have no problem with Lakers losing games….. however the recent losses to The Clips and the Mavs were simply disgraceful…..don’t call it panic…call it disgust..however tonight and the recent wins over New York and OKC are the stuff dreams are made of …God Bless My LA Lakers!!!!

  • Tyler

    Nice solid win. Everything they should have done in Dallas, they did here. Great job. If the Lakers keep up the quality wins, they should have no problem catching up to the spurs

  • hoop247

    Lakers is back baby. my boy kobe is back too watch out NBA

  • lakerville213

    Dear Anna,

    WHY CANT RON ARTEST JUMP LET ALONE DUNK???

    sincerely,
    lakerville213

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Ron Artest does seem to have issues getting some flight, huh? It’s all good. I’ll take him consistent from the 3 if that’s where he’s comfortable.

    • SHOWTIME2011

      how do you feel about kobe being an illuminati

      • gameplan

        Who cares if his illuminati? I just watch him plays that’s all, I don’t care what religion he is with. Idolizing kobe doesn’t mean to follow him on his course.

  • Eidraq

    Finally!! A solid win by the Lakers.

    • LakerMarc

      Actually they have had numerous with really good strong performances… its just that there is so much crap weaved in between that its hard to notice the good ones.

  • Guildtank

    A win is good. But the challenge is to string wins together against good teams.

    I am curious to see if Lakers can beat their next opponent

  • Barracuda

    While talking about the Lakers, Coach George Karl says it best…”I just think it’s incredibly tough to try to defend a championship for two or three years,”…. “They [Lakers] get the team they’re playing’s best shot every night. They’ve probably got to play playoff-intensity basketball more often than we do. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to get to that mental level of commitment”.

    Fans have truly experienced their up-and-down swings this year……they want wins and a top seeding, their are several very strong teams this year and many feel the team with homecourt in the finals will win the title…(all you have to do is look at the Cavs over the last 2 years to see how important the regular season is)….for our Lakers, staying as healthy as possible through this season should be the #1 concern.

    At this point, even with the Lakers’ on-again, off-again tendencies this season, they are #2 seed in the west and have the 4th best record in the NBA.

  • mr.laker19

    We have trouble defending pick and roll, we have the worse defensive starting PG in the game, and Artest has lost his athleticism almost completely. Those are our defensive issues. We will need Brown and Barnes to step up in the Playoffs to help us in these areas. And next year we will need a new PG and SF starting period.

  • hoop247