Lakers forward Ron Artest pulls out the defensive stops

Ron Artest sat in his chair with his hands on his chin, a towel wrapped around his waist, an ice bucket nearby, a look of interest at the mob of reporters surrounding teammate Lamar Odom.

Artest slowly began to dress, appearing content with the job he had just completed.

He was acquired last summer by the Lakers to put the clamps on All-Star small forwards such as Denver’s Carmelo Anthony.

And Artest did, using his strength and defensive acumen to hold Anthony down to the point the Nuggets’ star fouled out during the Lakers’ 95-89 victory over Denver on Sunday at Staples Center.

Artest refused to give Anthony an inch, the two going head-to-head, the Lakers’ forward grinding down Anthony to a seven-for-19 shooting game, 21 points and eight turnovers.

“He’s definitely one of the better players in the NBA,” Artest said. “But like I say all the time, when I’m playing, for years, I never worry about the offensive player. Whether they get 50 or whether they get 10, I don’t really care about an offensive player, even if they have a good game.”

Artest held Anthony eight points below his average. Before that, he held Golden State’s Corey Maggette three points below his average, Boston’s Paul Pierce seven below his, Memphis’ Rudy Gay three below his average and Dallas’ Shawn Marion a point below his average.

“Some people get in a defensive rhythm,” Artest said. “I can get into a defensive rhythm. I think I’m in a little rhythm right now defensively. That’s what I’m going to try to do, keep people under their average and keep my strength.”

Artest wasn’t just a defensive stopper.

He also had 17 points. He was four for seven from three-point range.

Still, it was his defense on Anthony that got Artest attention.

Artest tied his season high with six steals, two against Anthony, both coming in the third when the Lakers made their run.

“I think this is what they were looking for, especially when they play us -- to be a little more physical with me,” Anthony said about the Lakers’ signing Artest to a five-year, $34-million contract. “Just seeing what they can get away with and what they can’t.”

Anthony and Artest wrestled down like they did all game, bodies banging.

Anthony used his right arm to free himself from Artest, who flailed.

When referee Courtney Kirkland blew his whistle, Anthony and Artest stared at Kirkland, waiting for the call that went against Anthony and in favor of Artest.

Anthony had fouled out with 2:13 left and the Nuggets trailing, 93-89.

“I thought it was a good call,” Artest said. “Late in the game, they don’t know if they can make calls like that. But a good call is a good call and I thought it was a good call.”