Artest vs. Anthony

Ron Artest won the game within the game today, slowing Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets. Artest held Anthony to 21 points on 7-for-19 shooting, forcing him into eight turnovers before fouling him out with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the Lakers’ 95-89 victory at Staples Center. Artest benefited from the rough-and-tumble confrontation between the two muscular small forwards. “It’s cool,” he said. “It pushes you to the limit. It’s fun to play a game where they’re letting it go, where you’re getting frustrated a little bit, but you’re in the grind and you want to be in that situation. It’s fun. It’s like old-school basketball. I miss that.”

Lakers 95, Nuggets 89

Trailing by as many as 13 points in the first half, the Lakers rallied today to defeat the Denver Nuggets for the first time in three games this season. The Nuggets swarmed Kobe Bryant, who did not have a good shooting game. He scored 14 points on 3-for-17 shooting, but added a team-leading 12 assists. Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 20 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds. Ron Artest scored 17 points and played lock-down defense against Carmelo Anthony, fouling him out with 2:13 remaining in the game. Anthony had 21 points. Pau Gasol scored 15 points and grabbed a team-leading 14 rebounds for the Lakers. The Lakers held the Nuggets to 35.9 percent shooting.

Is this a must-win game?

Lamar Odom laid it out pretty clearly today after practice. He said the Lakers wanted to win their first two games against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets, he said, needed to win their first two games against the Lakers. Now, it’s the Lakers who need to win Sunday afternoon’s showdown with the Nuggets at Staples Center. “We’re looking forward to beating them because they beat us,” Odom said. “They looked forward to playing us and beating us (earlier this season), because we really took care of them (in the playoffs the last two seasons). We just saw it as just one more game. They changed that by beating our butts pretty good. … We need to let them know we can beat them.”

FYI: the Nuggets won the first two games by 26 points and by 13.

Lakers 99, 76ers 90

You didn’t really think the Lakers would lose this one, did you? Here’s what Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after tonight’s game: “They were probably looking past (the 76ers) to the Denver game a little bit. They wanted to win the game (against the 76ers). They probably knew they could do it at any point in the game. They just waited until the end.” The Lakers play host to the Nuggets on Sunday afternoon, a game that should command their attention a little bit better than tonight’s contest against Philadelphia. For the record, Andrew Bynum said, “Definitely,” when asked if he was happy to get the Philly game over and done with. Bynum scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Pau Gasol had 23 points and 11 rebounds. Kobe Bryant had 19 points and eight assists.

Halftime: 76ers 51, Lakers 50

The Lakers turned in a lackluster first half against a lackluster team, trailing by as many as five points tonight at Staples Center. Pau Gasol had 17 points and seven rebounds and Andrew Bynum had 10 points and eight rebounds. Samuel Dalembert had 14 points to lead Philadelphia, and Lou Williams added 11 points and five rebounds. Before the game, the NBA fined Bynum $25,000 for criticizing the officials after the Lakers’ loss Wednesday to the Dallas Mavericks. Bynum said tonight he wasn’t surprised by the fine and planned to sound off about the referees before he was interviewed by a TV reporter.

No practice

The Lakers didn’t practice today after losing Wednesday at Dallas and winning Tuesday at Memphis. Nothing new to report, but check back Friday for news, notes and quotes from the Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers game at Staples Center.

Mavs 101, Lakers 96

DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points and Jason Terry added 30 as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Lakers tonight. The Lakers did not have the same bounce in their step they showed while defeating the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night. “(Fatigue) is always a factor, but it’s never an excuse,” Pau Gasol said. “That’s just the way it is, that’s the way the NBA schedule is; you’ve got back-to-back (games), you’ve got to travel, and you play through it. We have enough of a veteran team here that we can play through it and fatigue is never an excuse or a big factor.” Lamar Odom had a team-leading 21 points and Kobe Bryant added 20, one night after returning to the Lakers’ lineup after sitting out five games because of a strained tendon in his left ankle. Bryant missed what would have been the tying 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining in the game.

Lakers 50, Mavs 49

DALLAS — Ron Artest and Lamar Odom each scored 11 points in the first half tonight to lead the Lakers. Kobe Bryant scored only six points on 3-for-11 shooting in his second game in as many nights after sitting out for five because of a strained tendon in his left ankle. Andrew Bynum had eight points on 4-for-5 shooting and a team-leading nine rebounds. Jason Terry led Dallas with 18 points in a reserve role. The Lakers went on a 10-0 run to take a 48-39 lead, but Dallas closed the half with a 10-2 run.

Bryant moving on up

DALLAS — Kobe Bryant needs to score two points tonight against the Dallas Mavericks to pass Reggie Miller for 13th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Next on the list: Alex English (12th with 25,163 points), John Havlicek (11th with 26,395) and Dominique Wilkins (10th with 26,668). Bryant moved ahead of Jerry West to become the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer when he had 44 points during the team’s loss Feb. 1 to the Memphis Grizzlies. Bryant has 25,278 points going into tonight’s game against the Mavericks.

UPDATE: Bryant had 20 points in tonight’s loss to the Mavs and moved past Miller. He has 25,298 points going into Friday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center.

Lakers 99, Grizzlies 98

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Kobe Bryant returned to the Lakers’ lineup and helped them pull out a victory tonight over the Memphis Grizzlies. He scored a team-leading 32 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds remaining. He made 13 of 19 shots, including three of four from beyond the 3-point arc. He also had seven rebounds and six assists. O.J. Mayo missed what would have been the winning jump shot from about 20 feet at the buzzer. Bryant and Pau Gasol got caught on a switch, but Gasol stuck with Mayo as he dribbled into position to take the final shot. The Lakers trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half before rallying for their fifth victory in six games. They were 4-1 while Bryant was sidelined by a strained tendon in his left ankle.

“Nobody in the world is shocked anymore with what Kobe Bryant does,” Pau Gasol said. “He stepped up at the end of the game, in his first game back, and he really played excellent. It feels good to have him back and doing what he does.”

Said Bryant: “Every time, it just feels like the first time. I truly does. It’s a great feeling. It’s always brand new.”

Bryant played in his 1,000th NBA game.