The Los Angeles Lakers are Kobe Bryant's team, but Andrew Bynum was the superstar in purple and gold on Sunday in the Lakers' Game 1 win of their first-round matchup against the Denver Nuggets.
Despite netting just 10 points, the seven-footer also recorded 13 rebounds and 10 blocks, becoming the first Laker to register a playoff triple-double since Magic Johnson registered one in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. He also matched Hakeem Olajuwon and Mark Eaton for the most blocks in an NBA postseason game.
The difference in the game was Andrew Bynum, said Lakers coach Mike Brown said. He was phenomenal tonight, he was an absolute beast.
Bryant scored 23 of his 31 points in the second half on 11-of-24 shooting in Game 1, while Devin Ebanks, filling in for the suspended Metta World Peace, tallied 12 points and five rebounds in a 103-88 win. The Lakers, with Bynum and fellow seven-footer Pau Gasol, outscored the Nuggets in the paint 64-44, exploding the latter's undersized roster.
Bynum, though, will most likely be the focus of how Denver decides to attack Los Angeles as a whole offensively.
We just have to get back to what we're used to doing, just getting up and down the floor and enjoying ourselves, said Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. If we get outside the (paint), Bynum can get caught for three seconds, because he does sit there a lot, just posts there like a tree and blocks a lot. He's got to move with us, and that takes him out of the middle.
Denver's transition game, the best in the league (19.8 points per game, according to teamrankings.com) could exemplify Faried's aforementioned assessment. The Lakers have struggled against fast-breaking teams all season (teamrankings.com has them at fourth-worst, allowing 15.2 per game), so it's possible that the Nuggets will do a majority of their scoring in the paint against Bynum by simply getting to the hoop first.
We have to be more aware when he's in the paint, and we have to try to make the extra passes better, said forward Danilo Gallinari, who led the Nuggets with 19 points on Sunday. We have to move the ball, and shoot before he gets there.
Game 2 between the Lakers and Nuggets will begin at 10:30 p.m. ET at Staples Center on TNT. A live online stream can be watched here.
PREDICTION: The Nuggets lack the size to matchup with the Lakers' frontcourt, and even if they try to move up and down the court more in transition, fatigue will eventually set in. Even before transition, they would still have to outrebound the Lakers. The Lakers will take Game 2, 110-103.