Blog Entry

NBA Playoffs Hornets-Lakers: Bynum big in Game 2

Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:32 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 4:09 am
The Los Angeles Lakers evened their first round series with the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Championship teams can beat you at their game, and they can beat you at your game, too.

The Los Angeles Lakers looked like a genuine contender for the first time in a few weeks on Wednesday, downing the New Orleans Hornets in fairly ugly fashion, 87-79, to even their first-round series, 1-1. Only the Portland Trail Blazers played at a slower pace than New Orleans this season, and the out-gunned Hornets are happy to muck around in a low-scoring, sloppy setting when facing the longer, more athletic and more talented Lakers. With Kobe Bryant having an off night -- 11 points on 3-10 shooting -- and Pau Gasol continuing to do his Invisible Man routine -- eight points and five rebounds -- Wednesday was the rare night. If was a night in which Andrew Bynum became L.A.'s headliner. 

The biggest man on the court was the obvious difference-maker, showing up huge in the box score and the game plan. And Bynum's contributions were especially valuable on a night when both teams combined to commit 29 turnovers, and were whistled for 42 fouls that led to 54 free throws.

For a center, owning the paint comes down to finishing at the rim and clearing the defensive glass in traffic. That was Bynum's Modus operandi in Game 2, after proving in Game 1 that no one on the Hornets' undersized roster can really handle his strength and bulk in the post. 

On Wednesday, the Lakers smartly exploited that fact, turning to Bynum regularly in the halfcourt set. Bynum scored 17 points on 8-11 shooting and had Emeka Okafor in early foul trouble again. Bynum was also the reason that many New Orleans possessions went one shot and done, as he gathered in 10 defensive rebounds and helped hold the New Orleans' bigs (Okafor, Carl Landry, Aaron Gray, Jason Smith, D.J. Mbenga, Jason Smith) to just five combined offensive boards in 93 minutes. 

Bynum showed comfort away from the basket on both ends, too. On offense, he stepped out to hit a few jumpers of varied length. If developed, that's a dimension to his game that could make him lethal. On defense, meanwhile, he ran regularly at Hornets point guard Chris Paul, especially late, contesting shots and walling off the court. Taking up space, but doing it with a bit of grace. His ability to step out when needed, and then return to the boards, impacted a number of scrums and, by the fourth quarter, it was clear that the Hornets bigs were worn down and simply not competing as hard as he was. Bynum's defensive numbers -- two blocks and one steal -- don't do his impact justice. 

Pro Basketball Talk quoted  Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Bynum's night.
“We know that [Bynum] is the one that plays well against this team because of his size,” Phil Jackson said after the game. “He really carries things pretty well, so we’re confident in him having a good game … we think he can play at an even higher level than this.”
Jackson's right. Bynum is still scratching the surface of his potential, mostly because he's so far down the normal offensive pecking order. Bynum scored 20+ points just once this season. Could he average 20 points per game next year if he was on a team that needed him to be the go-to scoring option, and he stayed healthy enough to play big minutes? I don't see why not.

That team isn't yet the Lakers, but it could be in a few years. Bynum's evident maturity -- there's a lot less pouting these days -- makes imagining his future a tantalizing project. How much higher a level can Bynum reach? Who knows. But he looked like the NBA's best center not named Dwight Howard on Wednesday. If he continues to play at this level, pencil the Lakers into the Western Conference Finals.


Since: Jun 1, 2010
Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:29 pm

NBA Playoffs Hornets-Lakers: Bynum big in Game 2

I cannot agree with you more about Pau not showing up for this series. But, with all do respect, did you watch the game?He has shown up, he is just so weak. The bigs of N.O. have figured out if you hit him in the mouth a bit, he becomes timid.When I see him play now, compared to the regular season, I see the big of N.O. chesting him up, limiting his space. He is the type of post player that likes to have a little space to do a move, because he's a fancy move type of center, not the slam it down your throat Shaq style. N.O. bodies him up and they've got him figured out, just like Kendrick Perkins had him figured out.Pau has shown up, but he needs to improve his skill, not his motivation.
On the other hand, Kobe has shown up as well, but he's obviously trying to involve other players, mostly game 2.When I see past year playoff games I see Kobe aggressive and getting to the rim. Now I see him driving and stalling in the air. He has no ups anymore, or he's to afraid to get hurt. He's not the same as the past, I can see it. His jumpersaren't falling right now, and he needs to get some rhythem if they are to win this series and go all the way.
By the way, I am a Laker fan. Notice I might be the only Laker fan criticizing them, but man they look out of sink and just plain awful compared to what we have seen from them in the past.

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: April 21, 2011 2:38 pm

NBA Playoffs Hornets-Lakers: Bynum big in Game 2

I think Bynum has a huge future in the NBA, if he can stay healthy. The league is in dire need of really good centers and Bynum can certainly be that. And I don't think the Lakers are where he needs to be in order to become a superstar. It's just too crowded there. The Knicks sure might have interest in putting a deal together to get him, but Bynum would be going from one bad personal situation to another. My bigger concern for the Lakers is where are Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol? They're supposedly in the playoffs. How in the world could they be bored and not interested in this series? These are not championship players showing up. It's way beyond me why they aren't able to step it up. I'm beginning to wonder if they will wake up before the end of this series.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 21, 2011 1:15 pm

NBA Playoffs Hornets-Lakers: Bynum big in Game 2

Well, somebody had to step up for the Lakers in this series with the Hornets.  Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol don't appear to have much interest in the playoffs yet.  Lamar Odom seems to have some want to, but that alone is not enough.  Bynum is a very talented center in this league, and when healthy and needed he will bring it.  We saw that clearly last night.  Problem has been his health problems and being the third or fourth priority in the Laker offense.  After last night, it will being interesting to see what, if anything, changes in the Lakers' priorities on offense.  Kobe and Pau must step up in this series, and most likely will.  This will push Bynum down the list of priorities once again.  It would really be good for Bynum's individual career for him to be on a different team.  The Lakers have simply too much star power for him to consistently shine.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or