Monthly Archive for January, 2011

Lakers – Celtics Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s Sunday afternoon loss at STAPLES Center, which saw the team’s record fall to 33-15 on the season.

1 First half assist for Rajon Rondo, whom Kobe Bryant identified as the key to Boston’s offense after Saturday’s practice.

15 Second half assists for Rondo, who adjusted extremely well to what the Lakers were trying to accomplish defensively. Nine of those dimes came in the fourth quarter.

16 More total points + rebounds + assists for Kevin Garnett (18, 13 and 5) than Pau Gasol (12, 7 and 1) in a matchup that always defines Lakers – Celtics games in the past four seasons.

18 Fast break points for the Lakers, compared to only five for the Celtics, making Boston’s 60 percent shooting even more remarkable as most of the points came in the half court.

20 Rough count of how many questions to Lakers players and Phil Jackson had to do with how concerned they were about losing to Boston, and their general play of late. Phil’s response: “It’s not the playoffs yet. We’re still playing regular season games. We’ll get there in time.”

41 Points for Kobe Bryant, who started the game hot from the field before cooling while trying to carry the team in the fourth quarter. “I didn’t think anybody else wanted the ball,” said Phil Jackson. Bryant still finished over 50 percent at 16-of-29 (55.2 percent).

60.3 Boston’s shooting percentage for the game, fantastic execution even for the league’s best shooting team (50 percent on the season). Paul Pierce made 11-of-18 shots, Kevin Garnett 9-of-12 and Ray Allen 8-of-12.

70 Boston’s shooting percentage in the fourth quarter (14-of-20)

Lakers 96, Celtics 109: Jan. 30 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon home contest against the Boston Celtics, the first time the two teams have met since Game 7 of the NBA Finals, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Celtics: R. Rondo, R. Allen, P. Pierce, K. Garnett, S. O’Neal

FIRST QUARTER
6:25 It wasn’t a good start for the Lakers on the offensive end, as they managed not a single assist on 3-of-9 field goals while failing to move the ball well in the half court. This was Phil Jackson and his staff’s primary concern against the Celtics, who overload defensively, confident that teams won’t have the discipline to really work the ball around. Meanwhile, both 1996 Draftees Ray Allen (No. 5 pick) and Kobe Bryant (No. 13) had picked up two personal fouls and had to go to respective benches.

0:48.3 Three straight points from Ron Artest after he’d opened the game 0-for-4 were part of a 5-0 run to close the first for the Lakers, cutting Boston’s once eight-point lead down to one at 22-21. The Lakers did manage their first two assists of the quarter to climb up to 8-for-20 from the field, and forced five Celtics turnovers to help overcome Boston’s big 14-8 edge on the glass.

SECOND QUARTER
11:46 Lamar Odom continued a terrific individual start to the game with a slashing layup down the left side of the lane to give the Lakers a 23-22 lead, but Nate Robinson and checked-back-in Allen hit back-to-back threes at the other end. With both offenses suddenly clicking, Gasol then hit a nice running hook before Robinson’s pull-up jumper made it 30-25 Boston.

5:53 In Game 4 of the NBA Finals, C’s subs Nate Robinson and Glen Davis played a huge role in delivered Boston a victory. In far different circumstances, they were nonetheless at it again, combining for nine points to help Boston open a 40-31 lead, though Bryant’s 13-foot jumper and a turnover on Pierce (moments after he heard his first “wheelchair” chants while going down a bit too hard on Luke Walton’s foul) got LAL the ball back, down seven. One other note: Gasol cracked KG in the head on a follow through from a missed shot, drawing blood, which KG naturally let fall down his face before tasting, before begrudgingly walking to the locker room to get stitched up.

2:28 Gasol did not have a good start to the game. Period. He was hesitant while making only 1-of-3 field goal attempts, and often passed the ball out of good scoring situations. But he was a different Spanish beast in the second, offering extra energy at both ends, including a big block of Shaq on defense then a hustle play on offense to earn Kobe a three-pointer, which he drained to put the Lakers up 44-42.

0:01.0 After a great finish to the quarter produced a 54-48 lead when Bryant reached 22 points with two late free throws, Odom made an ill-advised play, to say the least, in fouling Glen Davis while he attempted a halfcourt buzzer-beater. Davis hit 2-of-3 free throws to make it a 54-50 margin. Bryant’s terrific 6-for-8 field goal performance paced the Lakers, who also made up some ground on the glass by attacking the O boards late, setting up an entertaining second half.

THIRD QUARTER
11:28 Kobe opened the third with a deep triple over Garnett to get to 25 points on an impressive 9-of-13 from the field, though KG answered with a hook that combined with Pierce’s triple got Boston to within two at 57-55.

3:48 We’ve seen Fisher throw his body at people in transition to earn fouls, and he did it again despite Allen’s protests, capping off his fourth steal with two foul shots to cut Boston’s lead to three. They’d built it up to six with an 18-8 start to the quarter thanks primarily to Pierce, who exploded for 14 of those points.

0:00 A late three from lil’ Nate Robinson gave Boston a 77-72 lead heading into the fourth, a nine-point turnaround from halftime. Bynum’s early foul trouble, a quiet Gasol and Pierce’s red hot shooting – if matched by Bryant – led to the lead swapping.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:48 Boston is the NBA’s best-executing team for a reason, shooting over 50 percent on the year thanks to plays like the two pin down screens that got Allen and Robinson wide-open corner 3′s that put the Celtics up nine points. The Celtics would go on to make 5-of-6 shots to start the fourth, simply executing much better than the Lakers while reaching 26 assists to just nine for the Lakers. L.A.’s coaches know that their squad isn’t where it needs to be yet in terms of execution, and Boston was showing why … yet the Lakers were still in the game.

4:02 The Celtics kept executing, Rondo earning his 11th assist of the second half with an alley-oop layup to Garnett that put Boston up 11 points, their high for the game. L.A. had avenged their 2008 Finals loss in Boston back in February of 2009, and the C’s were four minutes away from returning the favor after losing to L.A. in 2010.

0:00 Things would end in turn, Boston reaching 60 percent from the field at game’s close, Rondo dishing 14 second half assists after just one in the first half, and Bryant’s 41 points doing the Lakers little good on the scoreboard. The Lakers will have their chance to exact some regular season revenge on Feb. 10 in Beantown. Until then, your numbers coming in the next post.

Lakers – Kings Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s Friday evening loss at STAPLES Center, which saw the team’s record fall to 33-14 on the season.

26,972 Points scored in the career of Kobe Bryant, which places him at No. 8 on the all-time scoring list. With his 13th point in the first quarter that came on a one-handed dunk, Bryant surpassed Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946 points).

45 Combined points for DeMarcus Cousins (27) and Samuel Dalembert (18), whom Phil Jackson said “took it to our guys” from the outset. Cousins caught fire in the first quarter and Dalembert in the third, together helping the Kings outrebound the Lakers 42-36.

38 Points in a losing effort for Bryant, who started the game hot but finished only 2-of-12 in the fourth quarter to get to 13-for-27 in the game.

21 First quarter points for Bryant on 8-of-11 field goals.

17 Points off the bench for Shannon Brown, who made 7-of-11 shots including three three-pointers while playing 25 minutes.

14 Sacramento’s margin for points in the paint at 50-36, a category usually controlled by the Lakers.

4 Shots made by both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who combined for only 21 points, six fewer than Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins.

0 Shots made by Lamar Odom, who was 0-for-7 from the field. He did have eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

Lakers 95, Kings 100: Jan. 28 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against the Sacramento Kings, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Kings: B. Udrih, T. Evans, O. Casspi, J. Thompson, D. Cousins

FIRST QUARTER
4:30 For some reason, lottery pick DeMarcus Cousins, a 6-11 center, was launching long two-point jumpers throughout the opening minutes of the quarter. The thing was, he made ‘em all, reaching a team-high 12 points before Kings coach Paul Westphal yanked him to try and better match up with newly-entered Lamar Odom in a 19-all game. Moments later, we saw some history…

3:29 With a one-handed dunk, Bryant surpassed Hakeem Olajuwon for 8th place on the NBA’s all-time leading scoring list. Quite a crazy accomplishment, and one we’ll detail in full with an extended conversation with “The Dream” to be published tomorrow afternoon. He needed 13 points in the game to do so, and it only took him nine minutes.

0:02.0 Just for added emphasis, Bryant continued to tear up the net, adding a two-handed hammer dunk to reach 21 points in the period, making 8-of-11 field goals to bring his January shooting percentage up to 50.8 percent.

SECOND QUARTER
6:00 Two Odom free throws put the Lakers up 42-41, but getting stops at the other end hadn’t worked out too well for the Lakers, who watched the Kings shoot 61.8 percent, led by a 9-for-11 performance from Cousins, back in but now scoring in the post as well. Back in came Bryant, Artest, Fisher and Bynum to try and gain control of the game.

2:27 Though Bynum managed a second aggressive dunk through Sacramento’s tall bodies, the Kings pushed their lead to four points as Udrih converted back-to-back layups, leading into a time out.

0:00 The Lakers looked to have cut what was a seven-point lead to just two when Fisher hit a runner at the buzzer, but the red light had already come on, putting the Kings into the locker room with a 59-55 edge. Bryant got up to 26 points to lead all scorers, though no other Laker had more than Bynum’s six points. Cousins, meanwhile, had 22 for the Kings.

THIRD QUARTER
9:20 The Lakers often try to erase sub par first halfs early in the third quarter by ramping up their defense. But in this case, it was … well … the exact opposite. The Kings came out flying around, capping a 10-2 run with Cousins’s fast break layup to force a Phil Jackson time out with his squad down 71-57.

5:59 Things got worse before they got better for the Lakers, who suddenly found themselves trailing by 18 points after making just two of nine shots to open the quarter and conceding 18 Kings points in the meantime.

0:45.5 The Lakers looked to have cut the lead to 10 when Odom converted an open layup, but he was whistled for three seconds prior to the hoop. Instead, Pooh Jeter would pull up for a quarter-ending jumper that put the Kings up 85-71. L.A. had finally picked up its defense, but would it come too late?

FOURTH QUARTER
9:00 L.A.’s improved D did in fact start to pay dividends at the onset of the fourth, as the Kings had trouble getting good looks and the Lakers cut the once 18-point lead to eight on Bynum’s alley-oop drop in from Bryant. NBA teams like to be within 10 points with six minutes left to have a decent chance to come back, so the home team was in OK shape despite the horrid start to the third.

5:34 The lead was back to 10, however, with six minutes on the clock, though Bryant’s two free throws made it 93-85 moments later. Still looking for stops upon stops, it wasn’t going to be easy considering how well the Kings were shooting from everywhere.

3:14 Two terrific plays from the Lakers on offense (following the requisite stops on defense) cut the lead to just four. First was a slashing hammer dunk from Bryant, who looked angry while throwing it down, and then a beautiful pass from Odom to a trailing Gasol for a two-handed dunk that made the once 20-point deficit a 93-89 margin.

0:03.6 The momentum stopped right about there, as the Lakers couldn’t get a late three to go down, with Bryant in particular rimming out multiple times to fall to only 2-of-11 from the field in the fourth. The Kings missed several free throws down the stretch, but it didn’t matter, as 1-of-2 from Carl Landry with three seconds left was enough to create a 100-95 final score.

Up next, of course, is Sunday’s matchup with Boston. Until then, your numbers are coming up in the next post.

Kobe = All-Star Starter, Again

That Kobe Bryant will be elected as an All-Star starter for the 13th consecutive season was a foregone conclusion, particularly after the NBA announced that he led all players with 1,757,216 votes after the fourth round of ballot returns.

During Thursday night’s special All-Star Selection Show on TNT, it was announced that Bryant will indeed start at guard for the Western Conference, where he’ll represent the Lakers in front of a hometown crowd for the second time in his career (2004).

Bryant finished with 2,380,016 votes, and with his 13th straight selection, is only one behind record holders Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal, earning 14 consecutive nods apiece.

It will be the 12th A.S. game in which Bryant plays, as he missed last year’s contest due to a sprained left ankle. To account for the other two seasons in his career: he didn’t make it as a rookie, and there was no All-Star game in 1999. Bryant made his debut in 1998 as the youngest All-Star in NBA history, and last led all vote-getters in 2003.

This marks the fourth straight season in which Bryant led the Western Conference in All-Star balloting. Last season, he Bryant received 2,456,224 votes, finishing second overall to Cleveland’s LeBron James (2,549,693). In 2008-09, his number was punched 2,805,397 times, placing him third in overall balloting behind Dwight Howard (3,150,181) and James (2,940,823). Back in 2007-08, Bryant garnered 2,004,940 votes to finish fourth in overall voting behind Kevin Garnett (2,399,148), James (2,108,831) and Howard (2,066,991).

Bryant has won All-Star MVP honors three times, first in 2002 (Philadelphia), then in 2007 (Las Vegas) and finally in 2009 (Phoenix), when he shared the trophy with Shaquille O’Neal.

Jerry West on Defensive Comments

For the past few days, Jerry West’s name has come up quite a few times around the Lakers’ practice facility and at Staples Center, as media members sought out reactions to comments West made as the keynote speaker during the Orange County Automobile Dealers Association luncheon last Friday, as reported by the Orange County Register.

On Tuesday afternoon, West offered an explanation of his remarks to Lakers.com after we chatted with him about the unveiling of a statue in his likeness outside of Staples Center.

“I think it’s kind of funny because it was in jest,” West said of his comments. “A few weeks ago, (media members) asked Phil (Jackson) what’s wrong, and he said, ‘We’re just not defending well.’ And I just said there’s something about when you get older you don’t defend as well. I think comments like that, and I was laughing while I said them, get blown completely out of proportion.”

The Lakers’ defense, by the numbers at least, ranks third in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed (.437), as both Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher pointed out after Monday’s practice. Their defense has allowed fewer points — albeit while playing at a slower pace — since the return of Andrew Bynum on Dec. 28, helping the team towards a 12-3 mark.

To West, the Lakers only struggle defensively while getting caught in transition, due primarily to the fact that they have seven footers starting at the power forward and center positions. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are of course a huge — literally and figuratively — collective reason why the Lakers have won two straight championships, their length too much to overcome in combination with the rest of what L.A. can do. But it can be difficult for one big man and especially two to get back on defense when the ball is turned over. At least in the regular season…

“When I look at this team, the regular season and the playoffs are different,” West explained. “Every game in the regular season you don’t have as much of a chance to prepare, but the thing that you really see is when the Lakers get in their half court offense, if they turn the ball over or take shots out of their offense, that’s when they’re vulnerable (in transition) because big guys get trapped in the paint. But in the playoffs, they’re going to be fine.”

In the playoffs, West contended, the game slows down as execution on offense becomes more important, and teams have far fewer transition opportunities as a result, minimizing the potential negative impact of being a bigger team like the Lakers or Celtics that may not always show up in the regular season.

That’s a big reason why West said he expects the Lakers and Celtics to meet in the Finals once again. He thinks the Celtics are the only team that has the size to really challenge the Lakers.

“The thing that defines championship teams is how you play together,” West concluded. “I think the Lakers have four All-Stars on the team and are certainly capable of winning the championship again.”

Lakers – Jazz Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s Martin Luther King night victory over Oklahoma City at STAPLES Center, which saw the team’s record improve to 31-12 on the season.

64 Kobe Bryant’s shooting percentage, continuing his run of impressive offensive efficiency of late. In his previous five games, Bryant had totaled 54 percent from the field, and led all scorers with 21 points in his 26 minutes.

62 Percent shooting for the Lakers on an outstanding 44-of-71 from the field. “When you shoot that high a percentage, it’s awfully hard on an (opponent),” summarized Phil Jackson.

39 Bench points for the Lakers, thanks in part to Lamar Odom’s 17-point performance on 7-of-8 shooting. Odom added eight boards in only 23 minute, while Luke Walton came in with nine points and three assists in 17 minutes.

38 L.A.’s biggest lead, which is somehow 19 points fewer than their 57-point margin against Cleveland on Jan. 11. “”We came out with a lot of energy,” said Jackson. “Shot the ball really well.” The only problem Jackson had was his team’s transition defense off turnovers.

34 Season-high assists for the Lakers in a game featuring terrific ball movement. Bryant led the way with six dimes, while Gasol and Brown added five apiece, plus four each from Odom and Blake.

5.5 Games back of San Antonio (38-7) as the Lakers brought their record to 33-13.

3 Blocked shots for Andrew Bynum, who was an effective paint deterrent throughout the evening. He added a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double on 6-of-9 shooting. Since he returned to the starting line up at New Orleans on Dec. 29, the Lakers are 12-3.

Lakers 120, Jazz 91: Jan. 25 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against the Utah Jazz as the Lakers looked to build on last Friday’s big win in Denver, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: D. Williams, R. Bell, C.J. Miles, P. Millsap, A. Jefferson

FIRST QUARTER
8:22 Apparently, starting C.J. Miles was a good decision by Jerry Sloan, as his small forward scored the first seven points for his squad, hitting a three-pointer to get the Jazz within one at 8-7. Sloan made the switch from usual starter Andrei Kirilenko by starting rookie Gordon Hayward in Utah’s last game, but opted for the more offensively proficient Miles in this one. The Lakers did, however, score the next four points to open an early 5-point lead.

2:36 The lead would grow considerably in the few minutes following Phil Jackson’s time out with Utah trailing just 14-13, as the Purple and Gold reeled off a 15-2 burst to open up a 29-16 lead. A series of steals resulted in fast break points for Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, with five Lakers having scored at least three points.

0:00 Despite Paul Millsap’s 15-footer and tip-in at the buzzer of the first quarter, Utah managed to hit only 8-of-22 shots (36 percent) to L.A.’s whopping 13-of-18 (72.2 percent), which included Lamar Odom’s 3-for-3 off the bench. His three-pointer with 10 seconds left allowed him to match Bryant’s seven points, while Bynum added six and Artest and Fisher five apiece. An impressively focused effort it was for a team that hadn’t played since Friday evening.

SECOND QUARTER
5:16 Bryant, Fisher, Bynum and Artest returned to the game having watched the bench build the lead up to 21 points, thanks most recently to five straight points from Steve Blake, who also notched four assists in his 10 minutes of playing time. The game was well under control at that point, LAL getting nearly whatever they wanted on offense while (literally) shooting 70 percent from the field and conceding little on the opposite end (Jazz at 33.3 percent).

2:01 Nothing much changed in the next few minutes, the Lakers pushing their edge further to open a 60-32 margin in what was becoming a laugher. Fisher’s three, Bynum’s turnaround and Kobe’s pull-up jumper capped the most recent run, with Utah failing to score in a four-minute stretch. The bench scoring at that point was 20-3 for the Lakers, while bench assists were at 12-3. Odom had nine points, four dimes and four rebounds, Shannon Brown six points with a dime, Blake his five and four and Luke Walton three assists.

0:00 The margin at halftime was a healthy 28 points, with the scoring spread around amongst eight Lakers who had at least five points. Bryant led the way with 15 on 5-of-8 shooting, continuing his recent efficiency (54 percent in the last five games), while Gasol added 10 and Odom nine. L.A. shot 62.3 percent to Utah’s 32.6 percent despite giving up eight offensive boards while only grabbing one.

THIRD QUARTER
11:22 Much like in their 55-point blowout win of Cleveland on Jan. 11, the Lakers backed off not a bit to open the second half despite a bit lead, getting an alley-oop from Gasol to Bynum, then Bynum’s tip-in to push the lead to 70-38.

5:30 “The Lakers continue to toy with this Utah defense.” Those were the words of Lakers radio voice Spero Dedes on 710 ESPN radio after Gasol’s dunk made it 81-51 for the home team. Gasol, Bynum and Bryant had nearly matched Utah’s scoring themselves with 46 total points, paced by Kobe’s 20, 14 from the Spaniard and Bynum’s 12.

0:00 The Lakers led by 28 at the half … and led by 28 heading into the fourth quarter after a 27-all third quarter. The only thing of interest at this point is how many minutes L.A.’s stars would play, as Phil Jackson usually likes his starters (minus Fisher) to get at least 30 minutes of run. In this case, Bryant totaled 26, Bynum 27, Artest 24 and Fisher 23, down a bit since the second unit was so good in the second quarter.

FOURTH QUARTER
12:00 Gasol would stay in to get a few more minutes in, joining Blake, Brown, Walton, and Odom, who quickly scored back-to-back buckets to make it 98-68. In celebrity news, the jumbotron offered a three-pack of Denzel Washington, Wayne Gretzky and Jack Nicholson. Talk about short and sweet … quite a power pack there.

9:26 You might want to go right to the highlight package for this one: Odom, who dribbled by Francisco Elson and drew a foul while falling out of bounds, threw an extremely high floating prayer up before landing among the photographers … and sank it, much to the collective joy of those in attendance. Walton added a corner three on the next possession to make it 106-68, and Brown missed a chance to completely bring the house down by clanging a breakaway dunk in transition. Even Denzel was surprised, getting off his feet in anticipation before spinning around after the brick.

0:00 L.A.’s subs managed to outscore a looking-to-make-it-closer Jazz bench 27-26 in the fourth to claim a 120-91 victory. Brown did get his final dunk to go, putting a point of emphasis on what was an entirely dominant victory (62 percent field goals … for the game). Stay tuned for postgame numbers of L.A.’s 17th straight home victory over Utah.

Ratliff Practices, Barnes Shoots on Sunday

UCLA Health SystemThe Lakers are getting a bit healthier at the onset of a week containing only two games, as Theo Ratliff and Matt Barnes made respective progress with their injured knees on Sunday.

Ratliff, who hasn’t played since early November due to arthroscopic knee surgery, participated fully in practice.

Barnes, who also had minor knee surgery, had a chance to shoot the ball for the first time since going under the knife, though he’s still a few weeks away from playing.

Phil Jackson, meanwhile, said he’s pleased to have only Tuesday’s contest vs. Utah and Friday’s against Sacramento on the weekly docket as it allows the coaching staff to hammer home some different elements in practice.

Lakers 107, Nuggets 97: Jan. 21 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center as the Lakers looked to bounce back from Wednesday’s loss in Dallas, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Nuggets: C. Billups, A. Afflalo, C. Anthony, K. Martin, Nene

FIRST QUARTER
10:10 It was a poor start for the Lakers, with Andrew Bynum missing two good looks at the rim on one end, and Carmelo Anthony’s and-1 with Arron Afflalo’s three quickly putting the Nuggets up 6-0. Bynum was playing with a large wrap around his right elbow after he suffered a funny bone injury against Dallas on Tuesday.

3:00 Bynum missed two more good looks near the rim, so it’s not unfair to conclude that his elbow was causing some discomfort, or at least affecting his usual rhythm. Meanwhile, the Nuggets were aggressively double-teaming Bryant and turning him into a passer, though when they left Afflalo on him without help, he turned for a 17-foot jumper that brought L.A. to within four at 21-17. Denver had built their lead in part from the three-point line, where Afflalo hit twice and Billups once.

0:00 Both teams shot the ball poorly in the first, with LAL checking in at 39.1 percent and Denver 37.5 percent, due mostly to Anthony’s 2-for-8 field goals. Denver did hit four free throws to

SECOND QUARTER
7:15 Back-to-back hoops from Bynum and Odom capped a solid start to the second for the Lakers, who used an 11-2 run to open a 33-27 lead. Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and Luke Walton (plus Bynum) would then add a bucket a piece to get the Lakers up to 41 points, the bench production that was absent against Dallas on Wednesday coming through in the early goings.

2:27 With Denver’s defense focused on him, Bryant had taken only three shots, making one, while falling to a team-worst -8 in plus/minus, at least until a driving layup off a hesitation dribble made it 45-42 Lakers. Anthony, meanwhile, continued his shooting struggles at just 3-for-12.

0:00 After giving up 12 threes to Dallas, the Lakers conceded five in the first half to Denver, Afflalo’s fourth hit thanks to Anthony’s penetration and a missed rotation making it 52-49 for the home team at the break. Gasol joined Artest with nine points, while Odom tallied eight off the bench, with Bryant reaching just four points on 2-of-4 FG’s.

THIRD QUARTER
10:20 Some good execution in the half court saw Kobe hit a jumper, Artest drain his fifth shot in six attempts after Bryant found him out of a double team, and Bynum lay in next to the hoop for a quick 6-0 run that put the Lakers up 55-54.

6:31 L.A.’s best stretch of the game saw a three-point halftime deficit turn into a 5-point lead, thanks in large part to Bryant’s six points and assist in the first half of the third quarter. Denver did get Afflalo’s fifth three-pointer of the game to keep the margin close, then cut LAL’s lead to just two on Anthony’s alley-oop moments after Bynum (11 points, six rebounds) picked up his fourth foul.

3:16 More Kobe. He added another field goal to reach 5-of-6 in the quarter, then an assist to Odom and two free throws after getting J.R. Smith to bite on a pump fake, and he was suddenly up to 16 points with five dimes after the 4-point, 2-assist first half. His terrific run of efficiency on offense of late (55 percent shooting in last five games) was continuing, his FG total rising to 8-of-13.

Bryant would finish the period with 14 points to reach 18 on the game, along with six boards and six dimes after a dominant effort that turned his team’s halftime deficit into a 10-point lead after three at 82-72.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:16 Despite back-to-back buckets to open the quarter from Brown and Odom, producing a 14-point lead, Phil Jackson couldn’t have enjoyed seeing Ty Lawson get an and-1 off a screen from Martin. After all, screen/roll D with Lawson in particular was one of Jackson’s chief pregame concerns, and in this case preceded an Al Harrington bucket that cut L.A.’s lead quickly back to single digits.

7:10 The Bynum-Odom combination dominated the early portion of the fourth quarter, with Odom scoring six points and Bynum four over a five-minute stretch, Bynum’s power move over Nene opening a 94-79 lead for the visitors. This also allowed Bryant some quality rest before he checked in to try and see the game through after a Lawson reverse layup.

5:15 Nene, frustrated perhaps that Bynum had converted seven straight field goals after missing his first four, gave L.A.’s seven footer an extra shove after fouling him hard on an inside catch. Bynum sprang right up to look down in the face of the Brazilian, but no technicals were given. Instead, ‘Drew calmly hit two free throws before checking out with 17 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, putting the Lakers up 98-82, their biggest lead of the night.

2:14 Bryant took over the third, Bynum and Odom the start of the fourth, and Artest continued an excellent all-around game by first hitting his seventh field goal in 10 attempts (16 points), then grabbing consecutive rebounds to allow the Lakers to trim an extra minute off the clock, preserving a 13-point lead for L.A. and all but sealing the deal.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
58 Points in the paint for the Lakers, who found ways to effectively penetrate Denver’s defense throughout the contest.

20 More rebounds grabbed by the Lakers (47) than the Nuggets (27). Denver grabbed only 12 more total rebounds than L.A. had on the offensive glass (15).

19 Season-high points reached by Ron Artest, who finished an excellent all-around game with a corner three at the 35-second mark. He helped limit Carmelo Anthony to 10-for-24 FG’s, blocked two shots and came up with two key offensive rebounds in the final minutes.

14 Points in a dominant third quarter performance from Kobe Bryant, who added four assists and four boards in the period. The 33-20 Lakers edge in that quarter was the difference in the ball game.

5 Lakers in double figures, showing the balanced attack that kept Denver off balance defensively throughout the game. Artest (19) and Gasol (19) led the way, while Bryant (18), Odom (18) and Bynum (17) joined ‘em.