There isn’t much I can say about last night’s game that Darius didn’t touch on. The Lakers struggled early, but a 26-6 run in the third led to the 122-99 route of the Indiana Pacers. Kobe still had an off shooting night (five for 14), but got to the line frequently (14 of 15). Jordan Farmar had a huge night, scoring 19 on 10 shots, Fisher hit a few three pointers, Shannon Brown had an impressive overall night, the bigs played huge and Ron Artest looked like he’s playing some of the best basketball he’s played in recent years. After holding Danny Granger to only nine points, he has now held the last seven players he was matched up against under their season average:
Opponent, Player, Points vs Artest, Season Average
Indiana, Danny Granger, 9, 22.7
Denver, Carmelo Anthony, 21, 29.1
Philly, Andre Iguodala, 13, 17.3
Dallas, Shawn Marion, 10, 11.4
Memphis, Rudy Gay, 17, 20.0
Boston, Paul Pierce, 11, 17.9
G.S., Corey Maggette, 17, 20.3
Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register wrote this column on Artest’s improved defense since the All-Star Break:
The old Artest is who he expects to be come playoff time, when he plans to be down to 250 pounds. Yet in another sense, Artest wants to give the Lakers a new Artest.
He noticed so many other top clubs bringing in new talent at the trade deadline.
“So I figured everybody was trying to gear up for the Lakers, maybe,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I could be kind of like a whole new person after the trades.”
Indeed, Artest has systematically denied everyone he has faced since the Feb. 18 trade deadline, capped by astounding efforts against Denver’s Carmelo Anthony and Granger – both All-Stars last year. Anthony and Granger combined to shoot 11 for 28 (39 percent) from the field with 12 turnovers in the two Lakers victories, with Phil Jackson noting after both games how he has mostly indulged Artest’s insistence on not receiving double-team assistance on his side of the defense.
Outside of Artest’s continuing motivated play on the defensive end of the floor, the most inspiring part of last nights victory was the fact that nearly the entire fourth quarter reserved for the Taco Unit, giving the starters much needed rest heading into a three-game road trip beginning in Miami on Thursday. For much of the early part of the season, the Lakers reserves had troubles holding leads, if they can continue to pour it on with the starters on the bench, the Lakers title hopes will be much brighter. The K-Bros of Land O’ Lakers talk the Bench Mob:
STRONG SECOND UNIT
While the Lakers’ third quarter officially blew the doors off this outing, it’s important not to overlook the foundation set during the second quarter. Down by one as the frame opened, Phil Jackson opted for a lineup of Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and –after giving him a once-over with a feather duster– Adam Morrison. It was the most “second unit” second unit we’ve seen in a while this early in a game, with just one starter on hand and concerns brewing a cruddy team might actually put the Lakers in a hole.
Those worries took little more than four minutes to eliminate.
During that time, the Bench Mob went on a 14-6 run and created a lead never surrendered again. More impressively, every player scored at least one bucket except LO, who was content to set up three of the seven scores. The highlight was a driving reverse layup from Farmar, who shaded off defenders with his body and while using his southpaw to unite ball and cord. A very sweet move that got a few television and jumbotron replays.
It was also nice seeing Morrison contribute during his first meaningful minutes in many a moon. After his lob entry set up Andrew Bynum (eventually inserted to give Gasol a breather) on a reverse layup, the excitement was evident as he pumped fist while getting back on defense. There were low points as well –three turnovers along with four points and two assists– but all in all, he and PJ were pleased. As were the fans, who clearly enjoyed seeing the little-used reverse carve out a productive stint.
I enjoyed Mark Heisler’s column on last night’s game, where he wrote, “McRoberts, the third-year reserve with his second team, scored nine points in the first quarter. Of course, he had one advantage: He was trying really hard.” Also, Dexter Fishmore of Silver Screen and Roll had a hilarious recap of last night’s game where he said, “With Granger MIA the Pacers had to find scoring elsewhere, and of course they didn’t because they’re horrible.” Post game interviews can be found in the Land O’ Lakers link mentioned earlier. Also, Mike Bresnahan has a few quips on the Lakers not looking to add to their roster, Ron Artest being voted the second dirtiest player and some notes on the Phil Jackson/George Karl rivalry.