While the Orlando Magic got the best of us the first time around this season, we had our revenge. Last night really showed me what the Lakers are made of and what makes this team so special. They used the lessons they learned in last year’s playoffs that defense and rebounding will win you games when your offense falters, and showed the country in the process that Andrew Bynum can play with the big boys.
It’s been said a lot lately but bears mentioning again that Bynum is playing out of his mind right now. He is the difference maker more than anyone else on the team, including Kobe. Ironically, he isn’t doing anything that he hasn’t done before, or that the coaches have told him to do in the past. The difference is Bynum buys into their game plan now.
I think that Andrew focused on offense because that is where he saw tangible results. Yes, the NBA keeps track of rebounds and blocks, but it is hard to measure altered shots, energy and defense in general. He thought that his energy level on both ends of the court depended on lots of touches and a fast start out of the gate.
What Andrew Bynum has learned and therefore proven over this 10-1 post-All Star Break run is that his defense does have tangible results: in the win column. Good defense leads to good offense for the whole team, and as Bynum said himself, “My goal right now is to anchor the defense.” It is telling that the one game we lost was the game that Andrew had the fewest rebounds and impact in the paint. When he is on fire, the Lakers are unstoppable.
It was mentioned that Andrew gets fired up to play big time centers like Dwight Howard, and it was apparent last night. He was demonstrative all night, on and off the court. One of the first sequences of the game was a put back dunk off of a Pau Gasol miss, and you could see how fired up Andrew was. He had 6 points, 11 rebounds (6 of them offensive boards) and 3 blocks in the first quarter alone!
Bynum chased down balls, bodied up against Howard and snatched a career high-tying 18 rebounds for the night. If it wasn’t for his effort on the boards, the Lakers would have been in dire straights by halftime; their shooting was poor, but they were kept alive by second chance opportunities and a lack of turnovers coupled with a high number of turnovers by Orlando.
Next: The Amazing Fish