Lakers' Pau Gasol & Andrew Bynum establish chemistry in Lakers' 126-86 victory over Clippers
Lakers forward Pau Gasol pulled center Andrew Bynum to the side, hoping to address the news reports and Bynum's own self-assessment that mostly reach the same conclusion.
The verdict that says Bynum's game flourishes only when Gasol isn't out on the floor.
With Gasol making his return Friday against the Clippers after missing the last six games because of a strained left hamstring, he didn't want Bynum to follow the negative expectation he and the news media already predicted would happen.
"I just told him to stay aggressive and just be aggressive," Gasol said. "That’s it. That’s the bottom line. You might miss; you might not. But you just go to the post, demand the ball and do your move and play the way you've been playing when I'm not out there."
That's exactly what happened in the Lakers' 126-86 victory over the Clippers, with the two both posting 20 points in what became the Lakers' second-largest margin of victory over the Clippers.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson described the chemistry as just "all right," adding that Gasol looked a "little rusty," including his shooting technique and spacing that resulted in a four of 13 clip. Jackson had also proclaimed the "game ball" went to guard Derek Fisher for his six assists and season-high eight rebounds, which was more than Bynum's seven and Gasol's six. And then there was Kobe Bryant's 30 points on 10 of 20 shooting, which suggested his back spasms and fractured right index finger are improving.
At least for one game, however, Bynum and Gasol proved they could coexist, establishing a blueprint for replicating that chemistry for games to come.
That blueprint entailed giving Bynum early touches, a habit he routinely says is a necessity for any good performance. Though Bynum's comments suggest immaturity, the approach worked and resulted in 10 first-quarter points.
Bynum made constant cuts across the lane for easy baskets. He performed simple but effective drop step moves against an ineffective DeAndre Jordan, who was playing in place of the Clippers' leading scorer, Chris Kaman (back). Bynum proved to be just as quick after the game, being nowhere present in the locker room when the news media arrived.
"Most of the time we give him the ball early in the game," Jackson said of Bynum. "There’s no doubt about it, he starts quickly. He usually has the stamina to go good in the first quarter. That’s why we emphasize that."
Meanwhile, Gasol's 20 points mostly came by drawing trips to the free throw line, converting a perfect 12 of 12 from the stripe. Though the Clippers opened the second quarter with an 11-0 run, the Lakers chipped away for a 53-50 halftime lead. They then opened the second half reeling off a 12-1 run that featured a Gasol hook shot, a Gasol jumper and a Bynum dunk.
Gasol hopes that type of sequence can play out in every game. He's well aware of Bynum's statistics though: After averaging more than 20 points and 12 rebounds during Gasol's 11-game absence (right hamstring) at the beginning of the season, Bynum entered Christmas averaging only 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds. And he had entered Friday's game with four double doubles in the last five contests while Gasol sat out.
Though Bynum and Jackson said some of the December drop-off also had to do with sinus, asthma and knee issues, Gasol doesn't want his presence to be an issue too. After all, the Lakers are 20-3 with Gasol and 11-6 without him. And that's the most important statistic of all.
"We have great chemistry and I want him to be as aggressive as he has been in the last couple games that I've been out and aggressive as he was tonight," Gasol said. "When he's aggressive and he gets in the lane, he's tough to cover and he's very productive. I want him to stay aggressive and not be passive just because I get some looks also in the post because I'm also effective. We both have to be effective. We both have to be aggressive."
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol goes to work inside against Clippers center DeAndre Jordan in the first quarter Friday night. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times