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Dissecting Ron Artest's improved shooting in Lakers' Game 3 111-110 victory over Utah

May 9, 2010 |  2:08 pm

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Lakers forward Ron Artest arrived at EnergySolutions Arena 2 1/2 hours before Saturday's Game 3 against Utah, apparently figuring that some extra shooting would get him out of his shooting funk.

Even though he had maintained all season that he never worried about his low shooting numbers, or even his shot selection, the topic irked him enough to lament about the topic via Twitter because Coach Phil Jackson had publicly criticized his shot selection, particularly with his seven of 42 (16.7%) clip from three-point range in the first eight playoff games.

The scenario played out much differently in the Lakers' 111-110 Game 3 victory over the Utah Jazz, with Artest scoring 20 points on seven of 13 shooting, including four of seven from downtown. It's plausible Artest drew motivation from Jackson's comments and the subsequent coverage regarding his tweets, an episode Artest and Jackson have since resolved. But that explanation is too cliche and doesn't give enough credit to Artest for making a difference in the game.

The breakdown below reveals that Artest's improved shooting has more to do with his increased aggressiveness and confidence as well as good team ball movement and penetration, all of which enabled him to make quality shots.

Second quarter, 10:55 - 10:52

With Fisher manning the point at the top of the key, Artest flashed from the right block to the near-side perimeter. Utah forward Paul Millsap gave Artest the space, and Artest made him pay with a three-pointer that cut the Jazz's lead to 27-21.

Third quarter, 5:53 - 5:48

Artest received a pass from Fisher on the near-side perimeter. Millsap gave Artest the space again, and he knocked down the trey to tie the game up at 67-67.

Third quarter, 4:53 - 4:46

Kobe Bryant set himself up on the far post and looked for an opening in the lane and along the baseline. Utah forward C.J. Miles played him squared up as Bryant worked his way in the post. As soon as Jazz guard Wesley Matthews doubled up on Bryant, he kicked the ball out to Artest at the top of the key. Though Utah guard Deron Williams tried contesting the shot, Artest hit a dagger three, giving the Lakers a 70-69 lead.

Third quarter, 1:02 - :58

After Artest inbounded the ball to Gasol, he got the ball right back on the near-side perimeter. Gasol set a screen on Matthews, creating enough separation for Artest to nail his third consecutive three-pointer. The shot gave the Lakers a lead of 80-78.

Fourth quarter, 11:52 - 11:44

After Lakers forward Lamar Odom received an entry pass from Jordan Farmar at the left block, Artest curled off a Bryant screen set on Kyle Korver. Artest received a pass from Odom at the top of the key. With Millsap guarding Artest up top, he dribbled to his left through the lane and bullied his way in for the left-handed layup. The basket gave the Lakers a lead of 84-80.

Fourth quarter, 9:46 - 9:37

After Odom fed Gasol an entry pass, he quickly drew a double team. Meanwhile, Artest penetrated the lane and received a dump pass from Gasol along the baseline. Artest dribbled out to corner behind the perimeter and hit his fourth three-pointer, closing the Jazz's lead to 88-87.

Fourth quarter, 8:41 - 8:29

Bryant drove the lane before getting double teamed by the free-throw line. He then passed the ball to Odom on the near-side perimeter. He took a quick one dribble past Korver, but quickly drew a double team from Millsap in the lane. Odom kicked the ball out to Artest in the corner, and Korver immediately marked him. Artest drove past Korver along the baseline and finished with a reverse layup. The basket gave the Lakers a 91-90 lead.

What this means

This isn't a matter of Artest shooting himself out of a slump. While it's good his poor shooting numbers haven't rattled his confidence, what mattered more was that Artest seemed more involved with the offense, an approach he had also taken in the Lakers' Game 5 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

When players go through shooting slumps, some talk about the shooter's mentality and how the only solution is to keep firing away until the shots knock down. That's partly true, but it's misleading. The better solution, which Artest followed, is to find ways to have a positive effect on the game. He had done that even through his shooting struggles with his tough defense. But he still fired shots at will even when they weren't in rhythm just because he was wide open.

This time, the Jazz left him open but his shots came in the context of the offense through ball movement or penetration. Hopefully for Artest, this leads to more impressive shooting performances. But if they don't, he can still remain effective offensively with good ball movement, spacing and penetration to ensure the balance the Lakers always desire.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com.

Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest reacts after making a three-point shot against the Utah Jazz in Game 3 on Saturday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times


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