The final chapter in the 2010-11 Battle of Los Angeles wasn’t a thing of beauty but it will count just the same as a win for the Lakers. What had the makings of a blowout early became tense late.
The price of admission for seeing the Lake Show should be half off these days as the Lakers are only playing hard on one end of the floor lately. Andrew Bynum’s return didn’t do much to get the defensive commitment reestablished. Still, there was Ron Ron when you needed him making big plays on D when it mattered most.
Bynum’s improved play has certainly been a big reason for the post All-Star break surge. However it is the reinvigorated Artest that has proved to be the nightly X-Factor necessary to keep these three-peat hopes alive.
Kobe and Pau were unstoppable on offense tonight. Both were highly efficient going a combined 21 of 36 from the field. But they were matched almost shot for shot by Mo Williams and Blake Griffin who combined to score 52 on 20 of 32 shooting.
With the aforementioned tandems canceling each other out, this contest came down to the X-Factors. As already mentioned, Artest was that difference maker that helped propel the Lakers another step closer to San Antonio.
The box score will show a 15 point, 5 board, 3 steal and 3 block game for Ron. But hidden in that nice stat line are countless hustle plays highlighted by tenacious defense. Most important of all was Ron’s swipe from Griffin on a fast break in the fourth that helped seal the deal.
Picking up right where he left off prior to his two game ban Bynum doubled his pleasure with 11 and 12. Though it should be noted that his last two came in controversial fashion as a non-call on a tip in that should have never counted off a Fisher free throw miss gave Bynum his double-double.
Speaking of D-Fish. It was a strange night for the vet who went 1 of 4 from charity and then got an invite from Chris Kaman to have a meet and greet in the parking lot after the game. For his troubles Kaman was sent to the showers early.
It might seem improbable but the Lakers are now within five of the Spurs with 10 to play. Hey, just ask KG and he’ll tell you “anything is possible”. More important right now is to stay one step ahead of the Mavs. Right about now with Bynum back and Ron Ron playing inspired hoops it doesn’t seem to matter what seed the Lakers get in the playoffs. They’re peaking at the right time while others around them are sliding.