L.A. Lakers: You Can’t Blame Ron Artest, Matt Barnes for Defensive Struggles

I have recently taken heat for suggesting that Los Angeles Lakers forwards Ron Artest and Matt Barnes would form two thirds of the NBA's top perimeter trio, and after two consecutive losses, my opinion has not changed.

Losses to the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns have illustrated that the Lakers are far from being the dominant defensive force that some feel they can be, but none of those issues can directly be traced back to either Barnes or Artest.

Los Angeles allows its opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field and 37 percent from the three point line, but those numbers are more than likely a reflection of defensive issues that have dogged the Lakers in the past.

Some people choose to point to the Lakers' 4th quarter collapse against Denver as proof that Artest and Barnes are not worthy of being labeled an elite defensive duo, but in reality, both had played well until very late in the game.

Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony did score 32 points in that game, but Artest and Barnes made him work for every single point, and Anthony was granted very few open looks at the basket.

Artest's strength made it difficult for Anthony to find room with his dribble, and his quick hands induced a few steals and visibly had Anthony frustrated.

The Lakers lost to Denver because they were unable to keep speedy point guard Ty Lawson from penetrating the lane, and in the 4th quarter, it seemed like the Nuggets couldn't miss a shot.

It's important to note that Denver's come-back from 11 points down was initiated by Lawson's penetration, but the Nuggets scored the majority of their points in the 4th quarter from well contested jump shots.

Artest's defense was good, but Anthony and the rest of his teammates' offense was better.

Against Phoenix, the Lakers' troubles once again stemmed from an inability to prevent dribble penetration by Steve Nash, but even that was over-shadowed ...

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