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Lakers' Andrew Bynum comes up big, thinks bigger

Lakers' 7-foot center has 14 points and six rebounds in Game 7 clincher against Rockets, and says he's looking forward to battling Denver's taller, more physical front line in West finals.

May 18, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

Andrew Bynum was relieved.

It was time to move on to another playoff series, one in which he would make a bigger impact if the Lakers and their center get their wish.

If timing is everything, Bynum was solid Sunday against the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

He was pretty much a human pendulum against Houston, swinging back and forth between scoreless games, of which he logged three, and productive efforts.

In Game 7, he had 14 points on six-for-seven shooting. He also had six rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal in 22 minutes.

"Andrew played great," forward Pau Gasol said. "His production was very, very good. He played aggressive, he controlled the boards and he was a presence. We need that from him consistently. We're going to need that in the next series against a front lineup that is going to be a lot bigger than Houston's."

Indeed, there are no 6-foot-6 centers on the Denver Nuggets' roster.

Last month, before a regular-season game against the Nuggets, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson shook his head when asked if guard Chauncey Billups was the key to Denver's turnaround this season.

"There's Chauncey," he said. "But there's also Nene."

That would be the Nuggets' 6-11 center, who averaged career highs across the board this season -- 14.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots a game while shooting a remarkable 60.4%.

Nene provides muscle down low, along with 6-9 power forward Kenyon Martin, who was fined $25,000 by the league for a flagrant foul on Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki two weeks ago.

Reserve 6-10 center Chris Andersen is a shot-blocking specialist who sometimes flaps his wings after a big play to fit his "Birdman" nickname.

Bynum didn't seem deterred by what awaited him in the next round.

"I think it's going to be a great time," he said. "They're going to have big bodies. There's not going to be any more of this 'little ball' and little guards running through the lane and stuff like that."

Bynum had a 14-point effort in the Game 5 blowout against Houston but was scoreless in Game 6.

On Sunday, however, he was a factor from the start, blocking shots by Chuck Hayes and Aaron Brooks as the Lakers jumped out to a 13-2 lead.

In the second quarter, Bynum scored on a short hook shot and also ran the floor on one play, taking a long pass from Luke Walton and making two free throws after being fouled.

Afterward, he received a vote of confidence from Houston forward Shane Battier.

"At the end of the day, he's 7 feet tall and about 300 pounds. It's tough to beat that size and that length," Battier said. "He's a young player. He's taken a lot of grief, but he's trying to figure it out like everybody else. Once he does, he's going to be a more consistent force in this league."


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