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Keep the Car Running

I was hard on Ron Artest's offense earlier this week, probably too hard. He makes it easy to lash out at him, obviously.

But Friday night - save for a short 4th quarter stretch - he played well within the confines of organized offense, and it showed. The Kings scored 116 points in 97 possessions - a great offensive rating of 119.

And of course, Ron's biggest positive impact is always on the defensive end. He didn't stop Kobe Bryant - 30 points on 22 shots, 10 assists, 1 turnover - but he slowed him down significantly in the final period (2 for 5, one of which was a deep three over two defenders that only Kobe and LeBron make in today's league).

Mike Bibby was close to flawless on offense, as well - 33 pts on 15 shots, 7 asst, 1 turnover, and 14 big FTAs. That's actually better than vintage Bibby - that's vintage versus-Lakers Bibby. He's famously a Laker killer, and he murdered them last night.

It's a great win that might not really matter too much in the grand scheme. That game was (or should've been) much more important to the Lakers, who wer undefeated in the division and looking to make up some games after their recent losing streak. When Aaron McKie is your third best player out there, yeah...

Possibly the best thing to come out of this for Sacramento was the success of the press against a  good ballhandling team. You'd think Bryant, Odom, and Smush Parker could break a 1-2-2 quick enough to get into the offense, especially by the third quarter of seeing the pressure. By my memory, the Lakers only exploited the press once, and had to rush the offense every other time they faced pressure. In Sam Amick's recap, Eric Musselman says the Lakers were 1-11 against the 1-2-2. Impressive, and I hope the recent reliance on the scheme continues. (Though that means a tired Bibby or more Ronnie Price minutes. We'll see tonight.)

It's been 58 games, and the three major offensive forces on this team have finally gone Optimus Prime. Can this last? Can it even happen again? That will decide how this season ends up.