The Los Angeles Lakers are getting better, both defensively and offensively. Their most recent performance over the Nuggets in Denver last Friday proved it, especially after a 107-97 victory that avenged an earlier season defeat. Center Andrew Bynum did not see action in the 118-112 loss on Nov. 11, and he made a difference this time around.

Bynum collected 17 points, seven rebounds and two pivotal blocked shots that helped the purple and gold get back on the winning track. Both forwards Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom posted double-doubles, with Gasol registering 19 points and 13 rebounds while Odom had 18 points and 10 boards.

“How about Lamahhhh,” Bynum says about Odom. “He was strong.”

Yes, he was, but Bynum’s big presence both defensively in the paint and offensively showed substantial progress for the Lakers. Even Denver head coach George Karl knew it made a significant difference.

“Every one of their big guys had a big game,” Karl remarks.

“They’re trees down there,” Nugget Carmelo Anthony said. “And they bring Lamar, another 7-footer, off the bench, and he does the same thing: attack the offensive glass, put-backs.”

Kobe Bryant’s efficiency was noticeable although not prominent. Bryant scored 18 points, recorded six rebounds and made seven assists in less than 33 minutes of playing time. Bryant had a low-key image in the first half.

“It’s important for me to keep my guys involved, and build their confidence,” he mentions. “I know I can score at any moment or get looks at any moment. The third quarter I was able to do that.”

But Ron Artest was an integral part of the win, as well. In just 26 minutes, Artest pounded a total of 19 points and played extremely tough defense on Anthony throughout the contest. He was quiet overall, but very effective in containing Anthony.

“Artest is a strong defensive player,” Anthony says of the previous Houston Rockets’ player. “He has quick hands. I think as a whole the Lakers just do a great job just shifting the court, and especially now with Bynum and Gasol down there. With Artest on the ball, he can take a lot of more chances now, just scrambling around out there.”

Artest counters with his own opinion.

“There’s nights where he’s had good nights, and there’s nights where I had good nights,” Artest remarks. “Tonight was a good night for the team.”

For the entire game, the Lakers held comfortable edges. And they were able to control the tempo on the hardwood en route to their sixth double-digit win of the month.

“Size won tonight,” Karl adds. “Even when we did some good things defensively, we didn’t rebound the ball. The hope of playing with speed is you’ve got to rebound the ball and get more than four fast-break points.”

The Lakers are 9-3 in January, with losses to the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks.

Overall, Los Angeles held Denver to 47 percent from the field, but the Nuggets made 37-of-78 shots. They were 7-of-21 from the three-point line for a below par of 33 percent. More importantly, the Lakers outrebounded the Nuggets 47-27 and made 10 more field goals.

Four different Nuggets scored in double figures, with Anthony’s 23 leading the attack. Arron Afflalo had 22 points, followed by Chauncey Billups’ 16 and Ty Lawson’s 15.

Bryant was well aware of the trade that Anthony has demanded and the boos Denver has delivered to its star player.

“Melo’s a good friend of mine, and it’s the truth,” Bryant shares. “It’s stupid. You don’t boo him. It’s silly. You boo him the first time, let him know how you feel and get over it.”

Prior to their win in Denver, the Lakers suffered a loss in Dallas by a score of 109-100 on Jan. 19 and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on Jan. 17.

This week will turn out to be a measuring point for the Lakers, who host the Sacramento Kings on Friday, Jan. 28, before the clash against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Jan. 30.