Andrew Bynum proves unstoppable even if he's winded
The moment Andrew Bynum entered the paint there was nothing to hold him back.
Though the Laker center's first shot was blocked by Denver center Timofey Mozgov, it was quickly clear Mozgov couldn't match Bynum.
Concerns about whether Bynum would be featured as the Laker offense's focal point proved unfounded. Kobe Bryant fed him the ball steadily while Pau Gasol enthusiastically deferred to him.
Any doubt that Bynum's off-season work on his post moves would translate onto the court immediately fizzled. Bynum pounded, cut, spun and dunked his way for 29 points on 13 of 18 shooting, with 13 rebounds and two blocks. It was the second-highest scoring effort of his career (he had 42 against the Clippers on Jan. 21, 2009).
"I just wanted to get down low," Bynum said. "When I shot it today, I made shots. It's easy to talk big and look good when you're making everything. Tonight, I just felt good."
Well, except for one thing. Hauling his 7-foot-0, 285-pound frame up and down the court proved to be more punishing than Denver's frontline defense. Lakers Coach Mike Brown constantly urged Bynum on the sideline to "run, run, run, run, run." Bynum appeared lost on defensive rotations and found himself out of position to make plays. And he admitted he felt "winded like crazy today."
But the Lakers are just as determined not to give Bynum a free pass on his conditioning.
"We're going to get him the ball 20 times in a row in Denver, and that Mile High is going to climb on his back real quick, and we're all going to watch him suffer," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said with a grin.
Bynum's poor conditioning surely hurt the Lakers on rotations, such as when he switched off on a Ty Lawson-Nene pick-and-roll instead of staying with him, allowing a slam dunk. But consider this Brown quote in a different contest: "I'm going to keep trying to play him until his tongue drops out of his mouth."
Even though Bynum predicted he'd feel out of shape, Brown promised to play the Laker center his regular-season average of 34 minutes and came close to doing so at 31.
The Lakers relegated Bynum to a defensive role last season to minimize his chances of injury and to take pressure off him as a scorer. Bynum appears to be a more significant scoring option this season, such as when he converted on a Bryant alley-oop and added a free throw to cut the Nuggets' lead to 89-86 with 3:23 remaining.
Brown says Bynum could post at least a double-double every game.
Bynum's conditioning may initially slow the Lakers down. But his improved post play is a valuable addition.
"He was spectacular, outstanding, the energy he played with was very impressive," Gasol said. "I expected a solid game, but I didn't expect this kind of performance."
-- Mark Medina
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