Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who finished with 28 points and nine rebounds,… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The smile on Andrew Bynum’s face widened.
“This is so fun,” he said.
The reasons pointed to everything with his performance in the Lakers’ 103-96 victory Friday over the Portland Trail Blazers, in which he scored a team-high 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting. He threw down two 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 LaMarcus Aldridge, a lob from Josh McRoberts and two short-range jumpers in the paint. And throughout the game, Bynum’s continual success in navigating double teams epitomized the kind of effort that has left Coach Mike Brown in awe about his 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 certainly has progressed.
He’s already experienced a breakout season in his seven-year career, averaging a career-high 17.8 points, making his first NBA All-Star start and has avoiding any major injuries. In the past 10 games, he’s topped that. Bynum has averaged 23 points on 67.4% shooting and 11.7 rebounds in 38.9 minutes. He topped the 30-point plateau three times. The Lakers’ 97-94 victory March 11 against Boston featured Kobe Bryant deferring to Bynum on the final play, where his hook shot secured the win. The Lakers’ double-overtime victory two days later against Memphis featured Bynum accounting for 37 points and 16 rebounds.
Against Portland, Bynum weathered physical play from center Joel Przybilla three days after getting an ejection against Houston for questioning the officiating. Brown remained sympathetic toward Bynum’s frustration, arguing that his 7-0, 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’ front line.
“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 fun for Bynum as he took advantage of Portland’s diminished frontcourt, diminished by the recent trades of Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby to New Jersey and Houston, respectively.
He called for the ball on three consecutive possessions in the second quarter against 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 goaltending call. The last play featured Bynum spinning through a double team, leading Matt Barnes to tip in Bynum’s missed turnaround jumper,
“With the double team, it's all about seeing where they're coming from and knowing where your teammates are and know where your bailouts are,” Bynum said. “They're always going to be in those spots. It makes it easy.”
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