In basketball, the only thing more infectious than passing is defense. When Ron Artest is at the top of his game there is no stopping the Purple and Gold machine. Just ask the Indiana Pacers who took a 122-99 loss on the chin thanks to a defensively dominated third quarter led by Ron Ron.
At the half this game looked like another case of the Lakers sleeping on the comp by hitting the snooze. By the end of the third it was a snooze fest.
L.A. brought the pain by outscoring Indiana 38-17 in the third frame and eventually opening up a 30 point cushion in the fourth.
Just like he did against Melo on Sunday, Artest stuck to Danny Granger like a murder rap to OJ. Ron’s harassing D took Granger all out of his game as Indiana’s leading scorer was held to just 9 points (14 below his average) while making only 2 of 9 from the field.
Kobe Bryant’s shooting woes are starting to mount as he made only 5 of his 14 shots. Like all great scorers though, he took it to the hoop and made 15 trips to the line missing just one en route to a game high 24 points.
While Kobe continues to struggle to find his legs, Artest is finally in full stride.
The box score won’t reflect how brilliant Ron was (11 points, 4 dimes) but that’s typically how it goes for the defensive geniuses in the NBA. Although he did rip the rock from the Pacers 5 times making it 11 steals in the last two games.
Don’t sleep on the Bench Mob either. Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown made the most of their extended time on the court and helped to ignite a flame under the listless Lakers early in the second quarter. Farmar dropped 19 on the night including a near perfect 8 of 10 from the field.
But this game was all about the intensity and fire of Artest. Just when it looked like the Lakers were going to sleepwalk thought another lesser opponent; Ron turned up the heat and lit the fuse that blew this contest wide open.
Finally the defensive dynamo we all expected is coming to play every night. That’s bad news for the competition.
With stops in Miami, Charlotte and Orlando looming in the coming days, now is the time for Phil’s men to send a message to the league. Don’t look now but it would appear that the Lakers are slowly staring to hit their stride as the regular season draws to a close. The road swing will prove to be a crucial heat check culminating with a Finals rematch against the Magic.
So long as Artest continues with his infectious energy, I like the odds of the Lake Show busting out the brooms on the road tilt.