“During the game, he never complains,” Phil Jackson said of his young center.
“Andrew’s a trooper,” Lamar Odom praised.
“I was so pleased,” Pau Gasol gushed of his fellow 7 footer’s performance.
To think that two seasons ago, Bynum sat on the bench while the Boston Celtics mauled his teammates. Last season, he didn’t do more than foul Dwight Howard for every opportunity (or maybe “certainty” is a better word) for missed free throws. Now this season, he is not only playing injured, but playing effectively while he’s injured.
Consider this Andrew Bynum, the refurbished edition; a few nicks here and there, but working just fine, much to the disappointment of the Utah Jazz who have no one to stand in his way.
The Lakers started 1-7 in the game to instantly fall behind to the Jazz. It appeared as if the Jazz had found their mojo and would finally break their 15-game losing streak at Staples Center. After missing 6 of their first 7 shots, however, the Lakers scored 6 straight points to tie it, then took the lead and never looked back.
It helped that they took the heart out of Utah by keeping the ball out of Deron Williams’ hands. He only managed 15 points on 4-16 shooting, though he did hand out 9 assists. In his place, the Jazz got strong performances from Paul Millsap (26 points), C.J. Miles (20 points), Carlos Boozer (20 points), but even though the Jazz got within four points of the Lakers’ quickly dissipated 15-point lead, there was just never a threat of the home team losing tonight’s game; not to this smallish Jazz team.
At the forefront of the Lakers’ 2-0 series lead were their three big men, Bynum, Gasol and Odom. Having combined for 50 points, 44 rebounds and 9 blocks, it’s safe to say they played well over the Jazz’s frontline offensively as well as defensively.
Three Lakers had double-doubles tonight and none of them were named Kobe Bryant. Bynum, looking spry and hiding his pain well, had 17 points on 7-9, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks, a crucial one against Deron Williams late in the fourth quarter.
Gasol (despite his 6 turnovers) had 22 points on 7-11, 15 rebounds and two blocks. If there was ever a look of health on this Laker team, Gasol is it.
Odom, who seems to be hitting his stride at just the right time, had 11 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks and 4 assists.
“I just try to do the small things,” Lamar Odom said. “A block shot here, a putback here, offensive rebounds here, and just try to add up, try to play an all-around game.”
It doesn’t get anymore “all-around” when it comes to Odom. He can score as easily as he can beat the opposing forward to a rebound. He can inbound, with precision, a pass that travels ¾ the length of the court to an open Ron Artest for an uncontested two points.
Not to be overshadowed was Kobe Bryant, who passes just as well as he can score. In the first half alone, he handed out 7 assists, mostly from drawing the double (and sometimes triple) teams and proceeding to pass to a cutting teammate for an easy lay-up or dunk. With 30 points from 10-22, Kobe’s offensive efficiency seems to be climbing with each game. A great sign for the Lakers, not so good for the opposing team.
In the first half alone, the Lakers scored 34 points on 12 lay-ups and 5 dunks — the majority belonging to the Big Three (not you Garnett, Pierce and Allen). By being able to reach higher than their opponents, the Lakers scored off their offensive rebounds as well as simply shooting above the Jazz. In one 4-second sequence, Carlos Boozer was blocked by Odom, and then again by Gasol on a second attempt. 4 seconds!
If the Lakers can come out as aggressively as they did tonight on defense (they kept the Jazz at 39.6% shooting and then 13 blocks!), as well as offense (they shot 50.6%), the next two games in Salt Lake City may not be so bad.
Exploit Jazz’s weaknesses by impressing your own strengths on them — that’s what the Lakers need to continue to do if they want to come back to Los Angeles next week with a favorable road record. A 2-2 tie would be a bit disappointing; a 3-1 lead would be preferable; a 4-0 homecoming would be perfection.
Pre-game Thoughts: Andrew Bynum plans to play through his injury. Hopefully he gets safe passage tonight.
Half-time Thoughts: 46-58, Lakers — The team is playing well but they can’t seem to stop turning the ball over. They have 9 already.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: 20 turnovers! It doesn’t get anymore thoughtless than that, especially when the road team only had 10.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom were too much tonight. Together they collected 50 points, 44 rebounds, 9 blocks. WOW!