Lakers Defeat Nuggets In Clash of Western Conference Elites

March 1, 2010

Los Angeles, California - Led by Ron Artest's defense and Lamar Odom's energetic play off the bench, the Los Angeles Lakers triumphed over the Denver Nuggets 95-89 Sunday afternoon in a loud, playoff-type atmosphere at the Staples Center.

The victory gave Los Angeles its first win over Denver this season and sent a message to its chief competitor in the West.

Artest's defense on star forward Carmelo Anthony was the key to the victory, as it changed the tone of the game during the Lakers' rally from a 52-43 halftime deficit. In addition to his 6 steals, Artest also had 17 points, including 4 treys from deep.

Simply put, Artest put on a textbook defensive clinic, as he: 1) aggressively denied 'Melo the ball by overplaying the passing lanes, 2) physically crowded 'Melo's right hip after the catch and forced him to drive left with his off-hand, and 3) reached around to strip the ball or contest Anthony's shot once he put the ball on the deck.

Such defense was sorely needed on a night where Kobe Bryant struggled with a 3 for 17 shooting performance.

Bryant would finish with only 14 points, but managed to set up his teammates with 12 assists. One of the beneficiaries of those dimes was Lamar Odom, who contributed 20 points and 12 boards in the victory.

In the first half, the Lakers quickly fell behind due to missed opportunities on offense and an inability to contain Denver on D.

After Kobe Bryant drew a technical foul with 1:13 remaining in the first quarter, the Nuggets went on a 15-6 run over the next few minutes behind jumpers from 'Melo and Chauncey Billups.

Down 9 at the half, the Lakers responded in the third with an enthusiastic effort on defense.

After 4 quick Andrew Bynum points in the paint, Artest deflected a pass intended for Anthony and converted it into a dunk on the other end, cutting the Nuggets lead to 52-49 with 9:50 left in the quarter.

Veteran point guard Derek Fisher then hit a timely three, trimming LA's deficit to one at 54-53.

It was at this point that Artest began to put the clamps on 'Melo, either stealing or deflecting the ball away from the Nuggets star, possession after possession.

Fisher soon joined in the act, getting a steal and layup to trim the lead to 66-64. When the quarter finally ended, the Lakers had held the Nuggets to a mere 18 points for the period.

What Fisher and Artest had started, Bryant and Odom finished in the fourth.

Odom produced 9 points during the quarter, including a momentum-building three to open the period. Odom later would give LA its first lead of the second half at 74-72, thanks to a tough running fallaway bank shot while drifting to his right.

Bryant, who struggled to only 6 points during the first three quarters, began to show some life in the fourth. Throughout the quarter, the Lakers repeatedly fed Kobe on the right block, and he delivered by either scoring over the shorter Arron Afflalo or hitting the open man for quality looks.

When Artest later frustrated 'Melo into throwing an elbow and committing his sixth foul with 2:13 to go, the Lakers win was secure, as they were never seriously threatened again for the remainder of the contest.

In the end, the Lakers' D pulled them through on a day when Bryant had a sub-par game, as they held the Nuggets to merely 36% shooting overall and to only 19 fourth quarter points.

In addition, LA won the battle on the interior, outscoring Denver in points in the paint, 50 to 26. They also outrebounded the Nuggets 47 to 43.

Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 21 points, but committed a whopping 8 turnovers. Denver guards Billups and Afflalo also chipped in with 17 and 16 points respectively. Sixth man J.R. Smith was a non-factor, scoring only 7 points.

The victory improved LA to 45-15 on the year, while the Nuggets dropped to 39-20. Both teams still remain atop their respective divisions in the West.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

1 comment:

  1. Anyone who still thinks we should of kept Ariza over Artest is a complete moron. Melo would have run over that fool


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