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Ron Artest's performance in Lakers' 99-95 victory over Phoenix Suns provides blueprint

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For what felt like an infinitely long three seconds, Lakers forward Ron Artest stood still at the nearside perimeter standing, holding the basketball. For what felt like an infinitely long three seconds, Phoenix's defense stood still and refused to close out. For what felt like an infinitely long three seconds, it appeared uncertain which party would budge first.

With Artest taking his time before taking a corner three-pointer, he ensured the proper balance, showed he wasn't being trigger-happy and gave Phoenix a reminder that it should respect his shot at least a little bit. His trey gave the Lakers a six-point lead with 1:32 remaining in the game. Sure, the Lakers required Pau Gasol to block Vince Carter's 26-foot three-pointer and Kobe Bryant to secure the rebound with eight seconds remaining before the Lakers' 99-95 victory Wednesday over the Phoenix Suns became official.

Artest's corner three-pointer, however, proved to be the turning point in a game that featured five ties and five lead changes. It furthered Artest's progression amid an eventful 48 hours that included a report exposing a conversation he had with Coach Phil Jackson in which he expressed his frustration regarding Jackson's public criticisms. And it offered a model for Artest to follow as he continues to seek his role amid a poor shooting percentage and chronic discomfort within the triangle offense.

"At that point in time, I'm just going to play the possessions as they come," Artest told KCAL-TV Channel 9's John Ireland. "Not much to think about. Kobe made a good pass, just like practice. Dribble, pass, open man and shoot it."

Surely, the Lakers (25-11) showed plenty of other positive aspects in this game. Their second consecutive victory puts them 2 1/2 games behind Dallas (26-8) and 4 1/2 games behind San Antonio (29-6) in the Western Conference standings. The mostly consistent ball movement led to Bryant scoring 24 points on nine-of-17 shooting based off mid-range jumpers and aggressive drives to the rack, Andrew Bynum producing both a strong offensive showing (14 points on six-of-10 shooting with seven rebounds) and strong defense (five blocks and constantly disrupting the lanes), and Lamar Odom (12 points) and Shannon Brown (13 points) offering solid bench support to counter that of the Suns.

Sure, there were also some aggravating moments: The Lakers' stagnant offense led to Phoenix dominating the second quarter (28-16). Bryant's three consecutive missed jumpers and poor transition defense enabled Phoenix to go on an 8-0 run and close the gap to a 92-88 deficit with 3:10 remaining. Gasol had an ineffective night (six points on three-of-10 shooting). The Lakers had no answer for Suns reserve forward Jared Dudley (21 points on eight-of-11 shooting) And Odom suffering an ulnar nerve (medical term for funny bone) contusion left Laker fans nervous, but he appeared in good condition.

However, nothing out of the Lakers' second road victory at Phoenix this season brought more big-picture implications than Artest's performance, which included 11 points on four-of-10 shooting, four rebounds and four assists. For most of the season, Artest has allowed his 39.6% mark from the field to derail his confidence, and teammates thought twice before passing him the ball. For most of the season, Artest's discomfort with the triangle had him and the team contributing to his isolation in the corner of the perimeter. And for most of the season, Artest's general inconsistency prompted Jackson to keep him on the bench during crucial moments of the fourth quarter.

But there Artest was on the floor Wednesday night delivering at the most opportune time after entering the game with 2:04 remaining. Bryant drove into the lane, met a double team and kicked the ball out to Artest from the baseline. After Artest nailed the shot and gave the Lakers a 97-91 lead with 1:30 remaining, Bryant embraced him at center court.

Artest wasn't finished.

Coming off the Suns' timeout, Phoenix forward Grant Hill passed to Vince Carter at the top of the key. But Artest rolled around Marcin Gortat's down screen and immediately marked Carter when he drove toward the free-throw line. With Derek Fisher helping out on a double team, Carter kicked the ball out to Phoenix guard Steve Nash. No worries. Artest switched on him and stuck with him as he drove toward the rack. With Gasol and Brown closing the lane, Nash threw a pass behind Gasol to Gortat in the paint. There was Artest switching, again, however, turning what would've been an easy layup into a hard foul for two free throws. It proved to be a smart strategy, considering that Gortat made only one of them to close the Lakers' lead to 97-92 with 1:23 left in the game.

On the next possession, Artest drove past Dudley, forced Gortat to rotate to the strongside and fed a dump pass to Gasol. His shot was blocked by Hill, but Artest grabbed the loose ball out of Carter's hands. That eventually led to Bryant setting up Fisher for an 18-foot jumper that gave the Lakers a 99-92 cushion with 45 seconds remaining, prompting Phoenix to call another timeout and Bryant and Fisher to exchange a low high-five.

"I'm not athletic as a lot of guys, but that strength is pretty strong," Artest told Ireland. "I can just move guys out the way."

Artest didn't just lift the Lakers' spirits during the final two minutes of play. He brought it the entire game, showing that future performances should be less defined by late-game heroics and more by consistently healthy habits. That doesn't mean he's suddenly an offensive wizard, as he demonstrated in the first play, in which he lined up on the wrong side of the court. But that's exactly the point. Artest remained effective through those shortcomings by looking for open teammates, aggressively driving to the basket when warranted and making hustle plays.

Even if Phoenix's strategy backfired in granting Artest open space in what proved to be the play of game, opposing teams' may still feel unconvinced that they need to throw double teams at him. But Artest doesn't need their respect. He just needs it from his teammates and coaches.

And with Artest's on-court actions showing why it is deserved, the rest of the Lakers provided that respect, a critical step in restoring the trust. But there's still a ways to go.

"It feels better to be able to play more games and move forward," Artest told Ireland. "Win or lose, we move forward and see what happens. ... We're still focused. We lost a lot of games, so there's nothing to feel good about."

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest made some crucial plays in the Lakers' 99-95 victory Wednesday over the Phoenix Suns. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (36)

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FCM- pretty good article. Nice specific breakdown. I'm impressed you can do this and keep track of the game chat and all the random tweets. Well, not so much the random tweets.

yello- MVP888's comments just reflect on him. your comments reflect on you. Honestly, i read your comments but usually skim his, but you are both developing a LakerTom/hobbitmage vibe that doesn't really do anything for either of you. Just my opinion. It's probably worth what it costs, but that's my reaction

S Perkins or D Fish or whoever you are, don't lurk on the game chat and quote me out of context. Fisher had a very solid game tonight, just like very night. He was in the right place on both defense and offense. He made some very good hockey assists offensively and covered Nash on defense enough to keep him honest. When we have all stars and superstars on the team, numbers don't reflect very much.

Something to bear in mind about Fish- he is never the problem. On the court, in the locker room- he always keeps his head in the game and if he can't do something brilliant, he at least doesn't screw up. It's invaluable and a lot of more 'talented' players haven't been able to do it for even one ring, let alone five.

THE LOVE AND FOUR TENTHS FOREVER!

IT IS ALL ABOUT THE LOVE

GO LAKERS!

phred - appreciate the feedback. In fact, I plan to go back to this route with game analysis posts. I think the "Five things" idea was a good concept esp during the preseason and early part of the season when there were a lot of developing story lines. But for the sake of avoiding sound redundant breaking down how LO is such a versatile player or how Kobe is clutch or how Andrew Bynum is making progress, I'll lock in on a specific theme from the game, explain what this means big picture and sprinkle in any pertinent details about the game itself. Plus ESPN is doing the 10 things so I want to do something different.

I'm of course interested in everyone's feedback over this

Great article. I like your idea about just honing in on one aspect of the game. Looking forward to more!

"We're still focused. We lost a lot of games so there's nothing to feel good about." Artest

That's perspective.

Man, Bynum is key here and it's so stressful wondering and hoping that he will continue to get stronger, better and remain available at a full clip for the duration of the season. We still have a "soft" schedule leading up to the OKC game on the 17th so there's still ample time to build upon these recent victories. Just listen to Artest - did I just type that - and remain focus because we've lost a lot of games that should've been wins.

All of these adjustments and "minor" victories are leading us up to the trade deadline and the 2nd half of the season which I predict is the time that the team will establish consistent winning ways that will secure HCA for the playoffs and the Finals.

"123 Get Samples" is promoting a new line of detergent, tooth paste, lotion etc by giving away free samples. It’s more of the “try it before buy it” marketing model and who can resist a free useful household product like detergent? This free sample is limited to one per household and only available while supplies last.

Kudos to trolls, led by Troll-Man. LOL
It's ok to call out Laker players for not stepping up on games. It's also ok to call out the way the coaches handle the games. But when it becomes a trend to call out the same player from the Lakers in every single game no matter if they performed good or bad; you are a troll.

It is evident that the more the Lakers win championships, the more their will be haters. It has become obvious if you read through the comments some 'observers' have posted this year, compared to last year.

S Perkins did not blog that same night when D-Fish had the game winning lay up because what would of been his point? Derek Fisher sucks?
The whole Laker blog would of answered; but he hit the winning lay up.

Troll Man for RCOD.

yeah, pfunk, yellofever, 's perkins' and hobbitmage are all being driven out for their opinions. that's why those five guys probably provide 75% of the comments on any given day. No, you find me a guy you left because there was too many people being nice and not enough personal attacks. I'm talked to people that left, and nobody has mentioned that one yet.

No, you find me a guy you left because there was too many people being nice and not enough personal attacks. I'm talked to people that left, and nobody has mentioned that one yet.
Posted by: phred |
============

Just out of curiosity, why do people say they've left?

MM,

Good observations. I like the concept of detailing one particular aspect of the game. Ron had a solid game. He's moving in the right direction. Like you mentioned his foul on Gortat was a very good play. Why give up an easy two points to someone that struggles from the line. I thought the Lakers should've fouled Blair (in the SA game) a few times instead of giving him layups since he's such a poor FT shooter also. Pau definitely needs to do a better job of using his fouls.

Another step in the right direction. A very good game by Kobe. Bynum and LO was good and The killer B’s solid (except for the Dudley explosion). Pau still needs to be more aggressive.

Since the Lakers appeared to be having a little more fun I’ll roll with a fun selection today.

Prince – Party Up!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFUHWH5YZTE

LRob with some music from The Kid.

The Lakers are starting to look like they purified themselves in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

OK, so I'll admit to only seeing up to the last 3 min of the first half (I think Mrs. Rancher may have spiked my Percocet). I did like what I saw, aside from the defence on Dudley. There was ball movement and an inside out game that you have to have when you have 3 7 footers to work with.

Can't go into much more detail because I don't remember much else this morning...

JR

If I'm not mistaken...don't the K Bros have a blog on BSPN...

Just saying if you miss those days...

MM - Great synopsis of the game...Ron Ron stepping up his game, AB progressing along...and our Defense seems to be coming back...

I think we are going the right direction...like I've said for the last month...

One game at a time...

@LRob - Prince in the morning...nice...

I'm still waking up...for all I know I'm dreaming...lol

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwT9ltDBG14

Remember when people talked about Kobe, Vince or TMac and which would be the next Michael Jordan. Seeing Vince and TMac the last two games reminded me of those comparisons. Kobe is still playing at such a high level while his contemporaries are just average players. It’s just another testament to the greatness of Kobe Bryant.


For all the Laker fans that are constantly criticizing Kobe. Here's the question....


Prince - Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS3pZjpyOJQ

Really a great game all around, by both teams. I actually was questioning Phil's decision to put Ron back in at the 2 minute mark of the 4th, I was wanting to see Barnes stay in. But wow did that turn out to be a magical move. We all saw the hugely critical things that Ron Ron did to help secure this win. Granted, Barnes may have done the exact same things - but ... maybe not. Excellent move Master Phil.

LRob,

Or how bout this one
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3-6O7btipo

I remember my older bro and sisters playing this when I was a kid
as they were getting ready to go out on a Saturday night.

I heard Boozer got benched in the 4th quarter last night...Anyone know what happened?

That was a close game with the Chowds and Spurs...Giniboli should have passed the ball to McDyess on the give and go...he was wide open, with another player positioned for the rebound if he missed...Best thing about Rondo's triple double...he is on my fantasy team...lol

Where is G Money? Oh he's in South Beach hanging with the HEATLES!!!! We won, where ARE you? The team looked like they were having fun again. Mamba24, what up?

A little perspective:

The 2010 Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics during the dog days of the regular season:

Feb 25, 2010: Cleveland 108, Boston 88
Feb 27, 2010: New Jersey 104, Boston 96
March 10, 2010: Memphis 111, Boston 91

All home games. The horror. The boos. The Game 7.

Troll Man. I'm all about diversity too. But I'm all about being respectful too. All opinions are welcome here

phred - Thanks for sharing your view. If you don't mind asking, what is the reason why others left?

5 minutes ago Roland Lazenby tweeted:

"Phil Jackson wonders if the Celtics aren't going to burn out. Says they're too old to be playing this hard at this time of the year."

hmmm

Good morning crew!

LRob - thanks for your comment about VC, Tmac and yes adding Grant to that list. It was so true how they were the next Jordans. I think Vince was the one who irked me most because he wasn't injured much - he was just all about the $$$ with a bad attitude.

Back to Lake show. The last couple W's have been good building blocks. A blowout and a close one. I care more about how we looked against PHX though because they are 2nd in Pacific even though far behind. You can always count on PHX to get themselves up for the Lakers - no matter where the game is played. So, I thought it was a solid W for us.

Next up is NOH. Should be another building block test. They have a winning record and they have been playing much like we have (in KB24's words - awful). So, I look forward to this one. It will be a good test of whatever new defensive schemes PJ has drummed up. It would be great to see team defense hold down Chris Paul - if only for a game.

Really looking forward to Knicks on Sunday. Good test with a pretty good EC team. And we all know how PJ loves to get on D'Antoni's nerves. I am hoping for some good sound bites over next couple days.

Cheers all - PLG

"diversity is the key

Posted by: Troll Man | January 06, 2011 at 06:12 AM"

Dude, here's the deal about "diversity." It applies not just to the blog as a whole, but also to individual bloggers as well. If a blogger is basically a one-trick pony, either all-negative or all-positive or obsessing nonstop about one particular player or blogger...it's speed-scroll time. You would do well to heed your own prescription.

"You forgot Grant Hill. And I mention that because last night the camera had a view of Hill and Vince "wincing" on the Suns bench. What or who they were looking at? …

Posted by: no mo' platitudes | January 06, 2011 at 07:33 AM"

Speaking of Grant Hill, every time I hear someone flapping his gums about how the Lakers are too old and Kobe's too old, I want to send them a picture of Grant Hill soaring in for a layup or swishing a mid-range jumper. Dude is 38 (!!!!!) FREAKIN' YEARS OLD. So, since Kobe's 32, that means we're good for at least 6 more rings...maybe 8...in a row.

Mr. Mark Medina,

What happened to the 5 things to take away form last nights game? That was one of my favorite things to read after every Laker game.

Thanks,
Ben Wells

CornerJ
I was having this conversation last night with my son. OBTW, I mentioned to him this was a great game for old guys to watch, what with Vince and Nash and Grant Hill, Kobe, Fish etc. but back to Hill and Kobe, Hill has played 939 reg and post season games over 15 years and Kobe has played 1255 in 14 or 63 games/yr. vs. 90 games/yr. Kobe has played a game every 4 days (and it does not include Olympic competition). This is almost unbelievable for any human being, it is an amazing feat but I fear it is or certainly soon will take it's cumulative toll.
Grant Hill is a great story and a class act and I am thrilled for him and his current level of success but I doubt Kobe will be playing at that level in six years but I'm hoping.

Good, not great Laker win. Leaving wide open 3 point shooters is inexcusable. And (surprise!) at the end of the game, Kobe finds a way to try and give away the win by again trying to take on a double team and throwing away the ball (back to the Suns). Not even a decent look/shot at the basket, but a turnover...when all 4 of his teammates have been making shots all game long. As long as Kobe keeps his ego/hero mentality, the Lakers will have trouble in close games, especially against the better teams. Wake up man and really TRUST your teammates...for crying out loud you won 2 championships with them and went to 3 Finals!!!!!!!

@GG I agree, KB's ego is the main factor. It really got exposed the summer before the Glove-Mailman dream team season, and more recently game seven of the 2010 finals. But when Kobe is finding shots within his ability AND facilitating, the Lakers are a supremly functional team. He has doing this the first month of the season, but Mr. Ego snuck in.

_| \__________________________________ - ______ ________________ \_`, (_______ -= -= LOAF #7 ) `--------=============---------------- -----------

Troll Man,
I did not see your post but I got your back and respect anyone who has an opinion even contrary to main opinion as long as you back up what you say with a reason. I have seen that in you and respect your opinions. If you did disrespect another blogger then I hope you stop. If not
I hope those fair weather bloggers get off your case because your opinion does not agree with theirs. Peace brother.

Justa. calling yourself Troll Man is a way of disrespecting in itself

Evil Cathedral - I felt like the 5 things part became too redundant to write because there's so many overlapping storylines, I just didn't want to sound the same.

We'll see how it goes. I just want to provide the best coverage for you guys


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