Lakers Now

Round-the-Clock Purple and Gold

Category: FIlm Study

Portland's second-chance points provide plenty of examples of why the Lakers didn't properly adjust without Andrew Bynum

Leaving Andrew Bynum with the task of tightening up the Lakers' defensive rotations and securing rebounds has left the young center empowered.

No longer did he feel his value through the prism of points, field-goal attempts and minutes. No longer did he have to keep justifying his worth with all the injuries and prolonged recovery periods, leaving some wondering if his size and length would be even worth it. And no longer did Bynum have to wonder how to fit within an offense that features plenty of firepower from Kobe Bryant, mid-range jumpers from Pau Gasol and versatility from Lamar Odom.

Bynum's average of 13 rebounds and 2.58 blocks per game since the All-Star break filled a hefty role that is valued by the Lakers, but it also left a void once he drew a league-imposed two-game suspension for committing a flagrant foul type 2 in the Lakers' 106-98 victory Friday over Minnesota. That's why it shouldn't be too surprising the Lakers missed Bynum's presence in their 84-80 victory Sunday over Portland, needing late-game heroics from Bryant and Derek Fisher to overshadow the Trail Blazers' 45-35 rebounding advantage and 21 second-chance points. That's why, even if the Lakers face an undermanned Suns team Tuesday at Staples Center, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson doesn't feel much at ease, considering Phoenix made 22 three-pointers the last time it was at Staples Center, making it necessary to close out more on the perimeter instead of remaining close to the basket for rebounds.

Bynum's absence also exposed a mindset the Lakers had during his surge that they hope to quickly correct against Phoenix.

"Andrew takes up so much space and he's so big that sometimes with him on the court we cannot do the little things like box out and make the right rotations," Odom said. "He bails us out with his size."

Below the jump, I explain in detail how Portland exposed that weakness on its 21 second-chance points

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Breaking down Ron Artest's defensive performance against Carmelo Anthony

Whether it's a good or a bad game, don't go to Lakers forward Ron Artest for a detailed breakdown.

He insists on staying in the moment, avoids reflecting on past plays and generally offers little analysis regarding his game. That's why it shouldn't be surprising he didn't make much of the Lakers' 107-97 victory Friday over the Denver Nuggets where he scored a season-high 19 points on eight-of-12 shooting and provided a stingy defensive effort against Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony that partly led to Anthony's 23 points on 10-of-24 shooting. Artest remaining stoic on an offensive effort isn't surprising considering his contention that he's more worried about defense. But he's as equally nonchalant about his defense on Melo.

"None of it," Artest said. "It's nothing I had never seen before. It's nothing I haven't seen before. So it's not really anything. I've done that a lot of times."

Besides wanting to psychologically keep himself humbled and hungry, Artest has a point in remaining reluctant to give himself too much praise. A review of the game showed that he made exactly five stops that prevented Anthony from scoring, including zero in the first quarter and an entire second quarter where Lakers Coach Phil Jackson sat him in favor of Luke Walton. Still, the plays below the jump shows how much Artest can help elevate the Lakers' defensive identity, a point Jackson conceded and used as an opportunity to take a little dig.

"Ron can really help us out a lot, as long as he doesn't chase the ball in the backcourt after somebody else gets the rebound," Jackson said. "If he minds his business and gets back on defense, he helps us out a lot."

Below the jump is a breakdown on how Artest did just that on five key possessions against Anthony.

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A look at the Lakers' poor perimeter defense in 109-100 loss to Dallas Mavericks


4:55 - 4:43, second quarter

After posting up on Lakers forward Lamar Odom on the near side and noticing all of his teammates collapsing in the lane, Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki kicks the ball out to guard Jason Kidd at the top of the key. Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher immediately close out on the perimeter, with Bryant marking on Kidd, Artest guarding Brian Cardinal and Fisher matching with Jason Terry. After he received a pass from Kidd, Cardinal drove right past Artest while Terry cut baseline. Fisher denied Terry penetration but then moved away from him, apparently expecting Cardinal to drive the lane. That left Terry open for a far-corner three-pointer, which gave Dallas a 47-40 lead.

4:05 - 3:57, second quarter

Nowitzki this time operated on the far post against Andrew Bynum. The sequence caused Odom to shift down into the paint to keep Nowitzki from attacking the lane and Fisher to cut toward him to deny the passing lane. Terry cut into the lane, causing Fisher to follow him and Odom to get distracted by the fact that Kidd remained wide open at the top of the key. Nowitzki kicked the ball out to Kidd, who drilled a three-pointer for a 49-43 advantage.

3:07 - 2:55, second quarter

Fisher cut baseline and flashed toward the near side of the court after Pau Gasol set a pin down on Terry. That gave Fisher an angle to drive left into the lane, especially after Kidd decided to remain on Bryant at the top of the key instead of sliding over to the free-throw line to help. Fisher angled himself pretty well on a drive to the lane, but he didn't use the backboard on a leaner and the ball rimmed out. Dallas then received the ball, as Kidd pushed the ball in the open floor. Before Bryant could mark up with Terry on the near side, he drained a three-pointer to cut the Lakers' lead to 49-48.

7:57 - 7:39, third quarter

As he posted up on DeShawn Stevenson, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant created a sliver of space for him to drive the line. He did so successfully, but he didn't account for Stevenson sticking to his right as Bryant blew past him. That allowed Stevenson to swipe the ball out of Bryant's hands. Kidd picked up the loose ball, dribbled left past Gasol and immediately passed on the far side to Stevenson after Fisher cut off Kidd's driving lane at the top of the key. Fisher ran out to contest Stevenson's three-pointer, which rimmed out and went into the hands of Tyson Chandler because Gasol and Ron Artest failed to box out. Chandler tipped the ball over Gasol, grabbed it and kicked the ball out to Kidd on the near side. No one was there to contest the shot, which cut the Lakers' lead to 62-57.

4:06 - 3:53, third quarter

Bryant weaved in the lane past Terry, through a double team between Terry and Kidd and avoided a blocked shot from Chandler. There are positives and negatives to Bryant's jump passing. He has the ability to dish on a dime, but sometimes teammates aren't ready for that to happen. Bynum didn't anticipate Bryant's pass, resulting in a loose ball, which Chandler picked up. After Kidd received a pass at the top of the key, Artest marked up on him. That left Terry wide open on the near side, though Artest slid over once Terry received the ball. No one accounted for Kidd, however, and Fisher's late reaction toward a close-out allowed Kidd to drain a three-pointer and take a 70-69 lead.

1:12 - 1:02, third quarter

After Shawn Marion set a pick on Steve Blake at the top of the key, Terry drove left but was denied an open lane thanks to Odom's help defense. With Brendan Haywood setting a down screen on Shannon Brown, however, there was no one to account for Kidd on the far side. Brown had trouble fighting through the screen, allowing Kidd to drain another three-pointer to widen the gap to 79-71.

:36 - :31, third quarter

As Terry flashed toward the far side, Marion set a screen for Blake. While Blake tried curling around the pick, Gasol's pick-up on Terry proved pointless considering he blew right past Gasol and Odom's help defense remained spotty at best. Luke Walton confronted Terry in the paint, prompting him to pass out to a wide-open Sasha Pavlovic on the near side. His trey extended Dallas' lead to 82-71.

6:26 - 6:09, fourth quarter

Nowitzki set a screen on Brown for Terry, although Odom immediately switched on him as he drove on the far-side perimeter. Nowitkzi then received a pass on the left block while still matching up with Brown. He forced Nowitzki to lose his handle, but he immediately fired a shot to Terry on the far corner. Despite Odom marking him, Terry drained a three-pointer to give the Mavericks a 97-81 cushion.

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers forwards Luke Walton, left, and Pau Gasol right, try to contain Dallas guard Jason Terry during the first half of the Lakers' 109-100 loss Wednesday. Credit: Larry W. Smith / EPA

Dissecting Kobe Bryant's aggressive play in Lakers' 101-94 victory over Thunder


Time and again, Kobe Bryant's expressions told the whole story.

He clenched his teeth after nailing a contested jumper. He scolded and then encouraged Pau Gasol after bobbling a pass. He barked orders to Ron Artest on where to move within the offense. And he let out grunts as he attacked the rim with a verve that harks back to his young years.

The Lakers' 101-94 victory Monday night over the Oklahoma City Thunder featured Bryant scoring 21 points on seven-for-12 shooting, dishing out seven assists and hauling down five rebounds with a perfectly nuanced method. He forced Thunder defenders to take his outside shot seriously. He burned the OKC frontline for allowing him to drive the lane. He exploited mismatches by setting up various teammates, including Gasol (21 points), Lamar Odom (16 points), Derek Fisher (season-high 15 points), Andrew Bynum (10) and Artest (seven points).

"He got the right guys going," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of Bryant.

Below the jump, I document how.

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Dissecting the Suns' three-pointers in Lakers' 121-116 loss to Phoenix

57645145Were Lakers Coach Phil Jackson a gambling man, he'd gladly roll the dice that Phoenix's penchant for three-point shooting wouldn't last.

"Our philosophy," Jackson said, "is those things even out through time."

Instead, the team's 121-116 loss Sunday to the Suns featured Phoenix setting a franchise-record 22 three-pointers, the second-highest league total any team's scored in a game.

The feat seems so uncommon that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant nearly guaranteed that you wouldn't see it happen again anywhere else.

"When guys are in the gym by themselves," Bryant said, "they can't shoot that percentage."

And Phoenix's live-and-die-by-the-three mentality seems so unorthodox, Lakers guard Derek Fisher highly doubts that strategy will prove sustainable for a playoff run.

"I'll just say I have five rings playing a particular way," he said. "I feel like that works pretty well. People do other things, and you see the results. That's just my opinion. Obviously, I'm biased."

The Lakers' refrain in the locker room after their second consecutive loss became as predictable as the Suns' relentless three-pointers. Rather than using this time to reflect on their poor defense, the Lakers pointed their fingers at Phoenix, claiming there was very little L.A. could do to stop a hot shooting night. Sure, Lakers forward Lamar Odom conceded the team could've performed better on closeouts. Sure, Lakers guard Shannon Brown acknowledged that the Lakers should've slowed the pace down to prevent the Suns from hitting so many three-pointers. And sure, Lakers forward Matt Barnes pointed to the Lakers' 18 turnovers feeding into Phoenix's high-octane offense.

But the Lakers' aura of resignation masked the plenty of things they could've prevented in allowing an opponent to set a new franchise record for most three-pointers given up in single game against the Lakers' franchise. Considering how rare it is for teams to hit such a high volume of three-pointers in a single game, it's tempting for the Lakers simply to just forget it and move on. But the tape shows this is another example of the Lakers' ongoing problems on defensive coverages.

Below the jump, I detail what went wrong on nearly every Suns' three-pointer. I left out two sequences simply because I DVR'ed Fox Sports West's replay Monday afternoon, and that version fast-forwarded through a few parts of the first quarter, leaving two first-quarter treys on the cutting-room floor. But you get the idea.

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Dissecting Ron Artest's shooting against Golden State


Two things that often irk Ron Artest: When he fields questions that he feels aren't fully thought out and researched, and when he's asked about a shooting slump. But even with the Lakers storming out to a 3-0 record, this period marks one of those times, as Artest has begun the season having made only 10 of 40 field-goal attempts (25%), and five for 18 from three-point range (27.8%).

When Artest began the season opener last week against Houston with eight points on three-for-15 shooting, I thought little of it because I saw plenty of hustle plays and quality work within the triangle offense and, really, it's just one game. When Artest scored 14 points on five-for-14 shooting against Phoenix, I overlooked some of the missed midrange jumpers because his three-for-eight clip from downtown looked pretty impressive. But when I saw him score only six points on two-for-11 shooting Sunday in the Lakers' 107-83 win over the Golden State Warriors, I started to wonder.

It's only three game, and I recognize there are 79 more to go, but I remain puzzled by Artest's diminished shooting touch because of his impressive preseason performances, and because he doesn't appear as lost in the triangle as he was last season. That's the main point he emphasized to me after the Lakers' win Sunday, but there's no doubt he wants to fix it, as indicated by his extra shooting following Monday's practice.

"When you see Ron over there practicing two-dribble step-back fadeaway jumpers from the elbow . . ." a reporter began to ask Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who then interrupted.

"Do I cringe?" Jackson asked, smiling. "Ron is an unusual shooter. He takes unusual shots. . . . Ron is a guy you gently lean toward coaching. You don't really push him in the pan and close the door."

"A lot of people have come through in bad shooting nights and come through in the big games," Artest said, and that certainly applied last season to Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and to Artest himself. "Come playoffs, if you shoot bad but you come through every round and hit big shots in big games. Everybody else is trying to make it out there and try to keep playing."

Artest is certainly correct in that respect, and I give him credit for refusing to allow missed shots to derail his confidence and hustle, particularly on the defensive end. But I found it still necessary to rewatch the tape against Golden State simply to get a better idea of what's ailing Artest thus far. Even if Artest isn't the main option on offense, he'll eventually have to correct those numbers when the stakes become higher. Below are the results after the jump.

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Breaking down Lamar Odom's performance in Team USA's 89-79 victory over Russia

Lamar Odom Team USA

Lamar Odom hustled for loose balls. He grabbed nearly every rebound. And he scored a few buckets too.

The aftermath of Team USA's 89-79 victory over Russia will rightfully focus on how the U.S. avenged Russia for its controversial loss in the 1972 Olympics, the skills of Kevin Durant(33 points) and how the team has a chance to win its first FIBA World Championship since 1994. But the U.S. also advanced to a semifinal matchup Saturday against Lithuania partly because of Odom's valiant effort. His six points, 12 rebounds, two steals and one assist make it appear as if Odom displayed a decent effort.

But it required watching the game in its entirety to truly appreciate the nuances Odom brought to the game. Odom "was absolutely, quietly tonight has been rock solid on both ends," ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said during the telecast. "He has been so subtly good tonight on both ends." Below is a breakdown on how Odom made that happen.

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Dissecting performances by Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest in Lakers' 111-103 Game 6 victory over Phoenix


Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and forward Ron Artest have both fielded plenty of doubt entering the postseason. Many wondered whether Bryant could overcome numerous injuries -- including a fractured right index finger, a sprained left ankle and a swollen right knee -- that have ailed him this season. Many wondered whether Artest could provide the same fluidity on defense as he does on offense.

Bryant has since been the model of consistency this postseason, averaging 33.7 points on 52.1% along with 8.3 assists and 7.2 rebounds in the Western Conference Finals. Artest has experienced glimpses of hot shooting nights and recently redeemed himself with a game-winning putback in Game 5 against the Phoenix Suns.

But in the Lakers' 111-103 series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Suns on Saturday, both players fully illustrated the danger they pose to opposing teams. Bryant scored 37 points, concluding a series in which he nearly recorded a triple-double three times. Artest scored 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting, including four of seven from three-point range, overcoming a postseason performance that entailed shooting below 50% in 10 of the 16 playoff games, and a shot selection that induced hand-wringing from Coach Phil Jackson, the media and fans alike.

But on the night when the Lakers clinched their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance, a meeting with the Boston Celtics and a chance to redeem their 2008 Finals loss, Bryant and Artest played at peak level. Below is a breakdown of plays they made that helped the Lakers win Game 6.

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Dissecting how Phoenix's zone defense befuddled the Lakers in 118-109 Game 3 loss to Suns


Frustrated with how Phoenix's numerous defensive adjustments in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals did little to prevent the Lakers from scoring, Suns Coach Alvin Gentry jokingly asked reporters after the game for any suggestions heading into Game 3.

The Suns ran a zone in Saturday's practice with poor execution, leading Gentry to wonder whether Phoenix should skip that defensive strategy in Game 3. Still, the Suns stuck with the plan.

The results were positive and immediate when Phoenix instituted a zone at the beginning of the second quarter. The Lakers scored only 15 points in 12 minutes. They attempted a playoff-record 32 three-pointers, making only nine of them. Lakers forward Pau Gasol shot just one field goal in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers heaved 11 three-pointers, four of them from Lakers forward Ron Artest.

Most NBA teams aren't used to playing against a zone defense, which didn't become legal until the 2001-02 season. The Lakers' discomfort with the Suns' zone defense was evident both on the stat sheet and in their on-court play. Consider the discrepancy between the Suns' defense in the first two playoff rounds compared with their first two games against the Lakers, including total points (95.9, 126), defensive field-goal percentage (45%, 58%), defensive three-point field-goal percentage (37%, 52%), points allowed in the paint (37.8, 54). Following is a breakdown of some of the Lakers' missed shots, which shows how much difficulty the team had matching up against the zone.

Second quarter, 11:31 - 11:15

The Sun's switch to a 2-3 zone may have surprised the Lakers, but they reacted on the first play the right way. One of the keys to playing against a zone involves making quick passes around the perimeter to test how quickly the defense shifts, a tactic the Lakers executed perfectly. Artest passed the ball up top to Jordan Farmar, who quickly passed to Lamar Odom on the nearside perimeter. Lakers center Andrew Bynum posted up on the near block against Phoenix forward Channing Frye, but Odom looked the other way toward Farmar at the top of the key. Since Bynum didn't get the look, he flashed toward the basket while Odom flashed across the lane and then cut out to the right block. Odom received the ball, Suns forward Louis Amundson confronted Odom and he attempted a 20-foot jumper. The shot rimmed out.

Second quarter, 10:42 - 10:37

Phoenix played in a 3-2 zone, with Amundson and Frye clogging the lane and preventing Bynum from getting good post position. With Farmar receiving a pass on the far corner, Phoenix forward Jared Dudley shifted from the top to the corner. Meanwhile, Odom remained open on the nearside since Suns guard Goran Dragic mistakenly stayed up top instead of spreading himself to cover the nearside of the court. Dragic quickly recovered, however, as Farmar pump faked and then dribbled in for a pull-up jumper. The shot hit off the side rim.

Second quarter, 9:39 - 9:33

With Farmar manning the point on the far side, Artest cut to the free-throw line and received a pass just above the stripe. Phoenix played in a 2-3 zone, with Amundson and Leandro Barbosa double teaming Artest by the right block. Artest dribbled left and pulled up for a quick jumper, despite Farmar being open on the nearside and Odom and Bynum trying to establish position in the post. Instead of settling for the quick shot, Artest could have passed the ball to Farmar to force the defense to shift and, perhaps, allow either Bynum or Odom to position themselves in the lane.

Second quarter, 9:02 - 8:52

This sequence demonstrates Phoenix's ability to play a 2-3 matchup zone perfectly. Lakers guard Shannon Brown drove to the lane, but Dragic immediately cut him off. With Phoenix spread on the floor, Brown made a quick pass to Farmar on the nearside perimeter before making another quick pass to Odom on the corner. Odom looked to make an entry pass to Gasol in the post, but both Amare Stoudemire and Dudley both marked on Gasol. So the ball got passed around the perimeter again, going from Odom to Farmar and then up top to Brown. With the shot clock down to six seconds, Brown hoisted a 26-foot three-pointer, which ultimately hit the back of the rim.

Second quarter, 4:24 - 4:18

After Odom cut through the lane to the far corner, he received a pass from Artest. Suns center Robin Lopez stopped a passive Gasol from posting in the lane, and Odom hoisted three over Stoudemire went off the back iron.

Second quarter, 3:48 - 3:38

Lopez swiped Kobe Bryant's pass to Gasol on the left block, forcing Bryant to pick up the loose ball near the time line. With only four seconds remaining on the shot clock, Bryant attempted a three-pointer, but it hit the back iron.

Third quarter, 5:57 - 5:50

After Odom passed the ball to Bryant just above the far perimeter, Bryant drove and posted up on Jason Richardson near the free-throw line. With Steve Nash helping on the double team, Bryant kicked the ball out to Odom, whose open three-pointer went off the rim. Gasol stood idly in the lane against Lopez instead of trying to post up inside.

Fourth quarter, 5:53 - 5:39

This play illustrates how quickly the Suns shifted in their 2-3 zone, while also denying Gasol space in the post. After Odom passed the ball to Artest on the far end, Grant Hill, Richardson and Nash shifted left, with Hill extended far out on the wing so he could mark Derek Fisher in the far corner. Artest quickly sent the ball back up top to Odom, and the Suns shifted immediately, with Richardson and Nash confronting Odom and Hill flashing toward Artest as Odom made another pass to him. After Odom received a pass just above the key, Richardson and Nash swarmed him, causing Odom to pass to Bryant on the nearside. Meanwhile, Gasol had trouble positioning himself against Lopez inside. Once Bryant received the ball, Stoudemire extended himself on the wing, while Nash shifted in Bryant's direction. Bryant immediately drove the lane, pump faked and weaved in for a pull-up jumper. But the shot hit the back rim.

What this means

Chalk it up, perhaps, to the fact that I went to Syracuse and greatly appreciated how well Jim Boeheim ran the 2-3 zone with his program. But I cringe when I hear the assertion that teams that play zone aren't sound defensively and use it to cover up their vulnerabilities. No doubt, the Suns made plenty of defensive adjustments in Game 2, including switching defensive matchups, double teams, zone and playing the post, all to no avail because the Lakers had too many options. But the above plays illustrate why Phoenix's zone worked in Game 3 against the Lakers: It was how active the Suns ran the set. They shifted immediately anytime the Lakers made a pass. They mostly disallowed the Lakers' front line from penetrating in the lane. And they mostly forced the Lakers to settle for quick shots, many of which didn't go in because the Lakers lacked rhythm.

Clearly, the Lakers didn't make the necessary adjustments in attacking the zone both through drives and posting up. They responded soundly by making quick passes around the perimeter to expose gaps in the Suns' zone, but that often went nowhere since Phoenix immediately shifted. The Lakers have the talent to make the necessary adjustments in Game 4. But it all comes down to execution, something the Lakers sorely lacked in Game 3.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and power forward Pau Gasol talk during a break in play against Phoenix on Sunday in Game 3. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Dissecting Ron Artest's improved shooting in Lakers' Game 5 111-87 victory over Oklahoma City


Lakers forward Ron Artest had shot the ball so poorly that it overshadowed the imposing defense he's provided. Artest had shot the ball so poorly that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson expressed uncertaintyon whether Artest would ever find his shooting stroke. And Artest had shot the ball so poorly that Jackson admitted before Game 5 of the Lakers-Oklahoma City first-round series that the coaching staff had started imposing limits on his shot selection.

"We asked him to limit his threes from the corner," Jackson said. "I think that’s one of the things he can eliminate. I know he'll take one anyway tonight, but that’s Ron."

That in fact he did, but this time the shot went in the basket, and Artest scored 14 points on six-for-11 shooting in the Lakers' 111-87 Game 5 victory Tuesday over the  Thunder. This was a welcome development considering Artest had shot 12 for 40 in the first four games of the series, and continued his season-long theme of  either adding little to the offensive flow or disrupting it with ill-advised shots. Artest contended he didn't change anything, but the tape shows he took a more active approach in being involved in the offense and creating opportunities by working the post. Below is a breakdown on what he did in Game 5 to become a better offensive threat.

First quarter, :25 - 12.4

On the near side of the court,  Lamar Odom set a high screen on Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook for  Kobe Bryant. Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha switched, marking Odom in the near post. But Odom immediately cut across the lane, prompting Artest to cut over to the near side to post up. He didn't get firm positioning, however, so Bryant passed the ball to  forward Pau Gasoljust above the free-throw line. Gasol then passed it  back to Bryant before setting up a screen-and-roll on Thunder forward Kevin Durant. As Bryant drove the lane, Gasol flashed to the post and Artest cut out to  the perimeter on the near side.  Bryant passed the ball to Odom in the far corner. Odom immediately passed the ball at the top of the key to  guard Shannon Brown, who pump faked, drove above the free-throw line and then passed to Artest. He nailed the open three-pointer, giving the Lakers a 31-16  lead. This play wasn't simply a product of Artest's making a shot he normally misses. He had gotten in rhythm by trying to run through the post, and the team allowed the opportunities to open up by running the triangle offense.

Second quarter, 4:53 - 4:40

Odom pushed the ball up the floor after rebounding  Westbrook's missed free throw. After feeding an entry pass  to Gasol, Odom cut across the lane and set a screen on Thunder forward Jeff Green. Artest curled off the screen and received a pass in the paint from Gasol. Artest immediately went up for the left-handed layup, giving the Lakers a 41-23 lead.

Second quarter, 3:51 - 3:46

Artest received a pass from Derek Fisher  at the near side of the court just above the free-throw line. In triple-threat position, Artest dribbled left and looked to Gasol posting inside. But Thunder center Nenad Krstic played Gasol up too high, effectively creating an open lane along the baseline. Artest drove through the lane and then posterized Sefolosha with the one-handed dunk, increasing the Lakers' cushion to 45-27.

Third quarter, 9:22 - 9:17

Bryant drove past Sefolosha but  met some heavy traffic in the lane. In midair, Bryant kicked the ball out to Artest in the corner. He made a three-pointer, giving the Lakers a 65-39 lead. This wasn't anything extraordinary that the Lakers did, just  Bryant showing his great court vision and Artest  knocking down an open shot.

Third quarter, 4:34 - 4:27

With Odom directing the offense at the top of the key, Artest cut across the baseline and flashed to the near side on the perimeter. Sefolosha slid to him, but Artest drove right and pulled up to make a 21-footer, giving the Lakers a 79-47 advantage.

Third quarter, 3:25 - 3:16 

After passing the ball to Odom in the far post, Artest cut across the lane and set a down screen for Gasol, who immediately received a pass from Odom inside. Gasol pulled up for a short jumper, but his lift and release were off, resulting in an airball. But Artest grabbed the ball and converted a layup, widening the gap to  81-53.

What this means

This isn't a matter of Artest suddenly finding his shooting stroke. Sure, he went two of four from three-point range, but Artest's improved shooting numbers in Game 5 had more to do with the fact that he appeared more involved with the offense. There were a lot of times Artest would stand in the corner, perhaps afraid that any movement he'd perform would disrupt the offense. And the defenses gave him that space, knowing he wouldn't often make the shot. All of Artest's field goals happened after penetration, showing he took a more active role in helping the offense run its course. It's perhaps another argument for why the Lakers should put heavy emphasis on ball movement and penetration because it elevates everyone's offensive capabilities, including Artest's.

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blogon Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest makes it difficult for Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant to drive in Game 5 on Tuesday night. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.



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