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Andrew Bynum's improvement has Lakers on the rise

All-Star center continues to improve, leading the team to a 103-96 victory over the Trail Blazers on Friday with 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting.

March 24, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • Lakers center Andrew Bynum plants an elbow to the cheek of Blazers power forward Kurt Thomas in the first half Friday night at Staples Center.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum plants an elbow to the cheek of Blazers power… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

The smile on Andrew Bynum's face widened.

"This is so fun," he said.

The reasons were evident during his performance in the Lakers' 103-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, when he scored a team-high 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting.

He threw down two dunks off alley-oop lobs from Pau Gasol to open the game. His eight fourth-quarter points featured an array of moves, including a baby hook shot over All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, a basket off a lob from Josh McRoberts and two short-range jumpers in the paint. And throughout the game, Bynum's success in navigating double teams epitomized the kind of effort that has left Coach Mike Brown in awe about Bynum's development.

"Coming into the season, I thought he could be something like this," Brown said. "But I didn't think he'd progress as quickly as he has. Especially once he started scoring through double teams."

Bynum sure has.

He's experienced a breakout season in his seven-year career, averaging a career-high 17.8 points, making his first NBA All-Star career while avoiding major injuries.

In the last 10 games, he's topped that. Bynum's averaging 23 points on 67.4% shooting and 11.7 rebounds in 38.9 minutes, topping the 30-point plateau three times. The Lakers' 97-94 victory Jan. 11 against Boston featured Kobe Bryant deferring to Bynum on the final play, when his right hook shot secured the win. The Lakers' double-overtime victory two days later against Memphis featured Bynum accounting for eight of the team's 14 points in overtime.

Against Portland on Friday, Bynum weathered physical play from center Joel Przybilla three days after getting ejected against Houston for questioning the officiating. Brown remained sympathetic toward Bynum's frustration, arguing his 7-foot, 285-pound frame makes it appear he's not absorbing contact through double and triple teams. But that hardly appeared to be an issue when he matched up with the Blazers' frontline.

"I changed my attitude," Bynum said. "I was too worked up toward missing a shot or making a turnover. You have to remember it's a game and a game we all can play well. You just go and you have fun."

It looked that way for Bynum as he took advantage of Portland's diminished frontcourt, which was minus Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby following last week's trades to New Jersey and Houston, respectively.

He called for the ball on three consecutive possessions in the second quarter against recently acquired forward J.J. Hickson, which showcased his continual effort to exploit mismatches. On the first play, Bynum held the ball high just as Portland guard Nolan Smith came to double. He then rolled to his left and scored on a jump hook. On the next play, Bynum passed out of a double team to set up Steve Blake in the lane for a shot and subsequent goaltending call. The last play featured Bynum spinning through a double team, leading Matt Barnes to tip in Bynum's missed a turnaround jumper,

"With the double team, it's all about seeing where they're coming from and knowing where your teammates are and knowing where your bailouts are," Bynum said. "They're always going to be in those spots. It makes it easy."

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