Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers 107-97 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday ...
He made the first shot of the game for the Lakers, a rumbling layup in the lane that he took right at Nene to break up the Nuggets' 6-0 lead to start things off.
He made the last shot of the game for Los Angeles too, a cherry-on-top 3-pointer from the wing right in front of the Denver bench to put L.A. up by 14 with 34.1 seconds left and salt the game away.
From those two shots and everything he did in between, Ron Artest had his best game of the year.
Artest scored a season-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting and helped contain Carmelo Anthony to 23 points on a 10-of-24 line.
"Ron played extremely well," said Kobe Bryant. "That’s one of Ron’s tougher matchups against Carmelo because of Carmelo’s size and strength and skills but I felt like he did a good job tonight and we were able to support him as well."
While Anthony shot blank after blank and the home crowd that's grown weary of their star, started booing the guy they feel has had one foot out the door all season, Artest just concentrated possession by possession. Stay in front. Contest. No easy baskets.
"I didn’t even realize he was playing that bad I was just playing hard, focused," Artest said. "I was locked in on what we were doing as a team."
Artest was more aware of his own offensive game plan, however.
Late Thursday night in Denver, Artest tweeted, "jason kidd so lucky i didnt take him to post yesterday i was like man i want to take him right to the bucket i was licking my chops lol," looking back at what he thought he should have done differently in the Lakers' 109-100 loss to Dallas on Wednesday.
"I saw [Kidd] and Baron Davis were on me when we played the Clippers," Artest said Friday. "They were on me for 5-6 minutes. That never happens. It’s a mismatch. It was unfortunate I didn’t get a chance to expose it."
He took it out on Denver instead, wedging his 6-7, 260-pound frame in the lane whenever he saw an opening.
"I think he just stayed inside of what we do," Bryant said. "He didn’t try to force things or overdribble or anything like that. He maintained his spacing and when the opportunity was there for him to punch it in the post, he took it and he spaced out offensively and knocked down shots when they were there."
Despite the fact Artest is averaging a career-low 8.0 points per game and shot just 7-of-23 in his last three games coming into Friday, Lakers coach Phil Jackson insisted after the game, "He’s still involved in the offense."
He was against the Nuggets at least.
Artest led the Lakers in scoring for just the second time all season, but his teammates were right there with him. The Lakers had five players score 17 points or more as Pau Gasol matched Artest with 19 points followed by Bryant and Lamar Odom with 18 apiece and Andrew Bynum with 17.
"I think they really cocked their defense towards Kobe and it really helped out," Jackson said. "We had to move the ball and share it and did a good job sharing it."
Odom thought the shared offense lifted the Lakers' energy on the other end. They held the Nuggets, who led the NBA in scoring entering Friday's game (107.3), to 10 points below their average.
"Sometimes with our team it helps that everybody gets involved in the game," Odom said. "We get on our defensive high horse. Sometimes we play our best defensive game if everybody is involved in the game [on offense]."
The most glaring statistic to jump off the stat sheet was the Lakers' 47-27 dominance on the glass.
"Size versus speed," said Nuggets coach George Karl. "Size won tonight. Even when we did some good things defensively, we didn't rebound the ball."
The two teams tied on the boards, 14-14 after the first quarter, but L.A. shot a blistering 38-of-65 (58.5 percent) in the final three quarters, so there weren't as many defensive rebounds available to Denver. When the Lakers did miss, they still crashed the boards, owning a 15-6 advantage in offensive rebounds.
"It’s size, a lot of it’s size, but some of it’s their defense," Jackson said. "They rotate to help, they’re cocked against Kobe’s penetration, the ball moves and suddenly someone smaller is one somebody like Pau or Drew and we had a couple opportunities that really helped us out that we got offensive rebounds."
The Lakers trailed by three at halftime before Bryant blitzed the Nuggets in the third quarter, finishing with 14 points, four assists, four rebounds and zero turnovers in the period as L.A. took a 10-point lead into the fourth.
"I just decided to get buckets, that’s all it was," Bryant said. "I just decided to go for it and make the defense commit. Ultimately, that’s our first line of attack. We start out the game going inside, I want my big guys to get a good rhythm, but ultimately, the thing that they’re concerned about is my attack. Once I started scoring the ball, now they had to come and do something and I made plays for everybody else."
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Bryant entered the game averaging 9.9 jump shots per game, third most in the league. In the first half he went 1-of-3 on jumpers while in the third quarter he went 5-of-7 on Js.
"You could tell that he was being very aggressive at the start of the [second] half," said Chauncey Billups. "He just knocked down tough shots. That is what great players do."
Seen in the locker room: Before the game a ball boy came into the Lakers locker room and told Kobe that Melo was going to give him two tickets for the game, but wanted a suite at a hotel in L.A. during All-Star weekend in return. Bryant laughed and said, "That's not a fair trade!" When the attendant returned with the two tickets, Bryant said, "Tell Melo I'll get him his suite and I'm going to fill it with New York Knicks jerseys."
Saturday marks the five-year anniversary of Bryant's historic night against the Toronto Raptors. He scored 18 against the Nuggets instead of 81 like he did that day. He spoke about the feat at shootaround. "I still don't know how the hell it happened, to be honest with you," Bryant said. "It's just one of those things, I guess." You can read the rest of his reflections here.
Here's another story out of Friday's game: Jackson was asked about Jeanie Buss' comments about potential NBA contraction. It's currently a hot-button issue in the negotiations between the player's union and the owners to secure a new collective bargaining agreement before the current one expires June 30. Jackson suggested the league would run well with 24 teams. Read more.
Speaking of the potential lockout, I ran into USA Basketball staffer Ellis Dawson at the game and asked him what the summer would look like for the national team if there is a work stoppage. Dawson said that luckily there is no international competition for the U.S. this summer because they have already qualified for the 2012 Olympics by winning the FIBA World Championship in Turkey last summer. An on-court mini camp like they have had in previous summers will be out of the question if there is a lockout for all the players, coaches and training staff members making NBA salaries. Instead, Dawson said the team will still plan to get together for a dinner in Las Vegas at some point to celebrate the 2008 and 2010 USA gold medal teams together, meaning that Odom and Bryant will still see each other in the summer months in the even of a lockout.
Quote of the night: "Say very little, but very distinctly." -- Jackson on his broadcasting advice to injured Lakers forward Matt Barnes who sat in on the KCAL 9 telecast back in L.A.
Stats of the night: The Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak at the Pepsi Center ... The Lakers shot 53.4 percent as a team. They are 14-1 this season when shooting 50 percent or better from the field ... Arron Afflalo scored 16 points in the first half but was held to six in the second ... Odom had his 19th double-double of the season and sixth as a reserve, which leads all NBA bench players ... Gasol put up his 26th double-double of the year and his fifth in the last nine games ... Bryant finished with seven assists or more for the third straight game ... L.A. is now 2-5 this season when playing against teams with winning records on the road.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.