Ron Artest(notes) is still trying to get comfortable with the Los Angeles Lakers’ triangle offense, but the 2004 defensive player of the year is as usual having no problem on the other end of the floor.
Artest and the Lakers play their first road game of the season Tuesday night, when they look to win their 10th straight over the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise.
Artest, who signed a five-year deal with Los Angeles in the offseason, is averaging 8.3 points on 32.1 percent shooting - far below his career averages of 16.1 and 42.2 heading into 2009-10.
“You can’t look at the numbers,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant(notes) said following Sunday’s 118-110 win over Atlanta. “Obviously, we know he’s capable of putting up big numbers. But tonight his defense was outstanding.”
“We picked up our intensity, and it all started with No. 37,” Bryant said of Artest. “He picked up the energy level defensively, and I told him the game was on him. I felt like the energy really changed the whole complexity of the game, and we all kind of rallied behind him.”
“There’s not a lot you can take away from (Bryant) but just make every shot he takes difficult with a hand near his face or close to his shooting hand,” Sefolosha told the Thunder’s official Web site. “You know he’s going to go with different moves. He can do it all. He can penetrate and shoot the outside shot. You can’t really take it away, just stay in front of him.”
Coming off a 41-point effort against Atlanta - his 97th career 40-point game - Bryant looks for another big performance against the Thunder.
In three wins versus Oklahoma City in 2008-09, Bryant averaged 29.7 points on 49.2 percent shooting.
He scored 19 before sitting the entire fourth quarter of a 107-89 win at Ford Center on March 24. That was the Lakers’ ninth straight victory over the Thunder franchise since a 117-101 loss at Seattle on Nov. 5, 2006.
Oklahoma City (2-1) returns to the Ford Center following Sunday’s 83-74 home loss to Portland.
Looking for the franchise’s first 3-0 start in six seasons, the Thunder shot a season-worst 34.3 percent from the field while committing a season-high 19 turnovers.
“Offense is what killed us tonight,” Durant said after scoring a season-low 16 points and shooting 3 of 21 from the field. “We didn’t take care of the ball, we didn’t make shots. I think we made up for it on the defensive end. We put ourselves in a position to win the game, but we’ve got to score points.”
Durant is 0-7 in his career versus the Lakers, but averaged 29.0 points and 8.7 boards against them in 2008-09.
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook(notes) looks to bounce back from a career-high nine-turnover game against Portland. His 274 turnovers last season were the most in the league, and he had four in each of the three games versus the Lakers.
Los Angeles could again be without Pau Gasol(notes), who has yet to play this season due to a strained right hamstring. Gasol accompanied the team to Oklahoma City, but the results of an MRI from Monday won’t be available until Tuesday.
The Lakers were a league-best 29-12 on the road last season.