Andrew Bynum's Resurgence Gives Lakers Hope
Not that Jackson specifically noted that to his team following the Game 2 103-94 Finals loss to the Boston Celtics, but the master of motivation did touch on something that pulled no punches.
"P.J. came out and told us it might be the last time we play (in Los Angeles this season),'' Lakers center Andrew Bynum said of the defeat that left the series tied 1-1 with the next three games in Boston. "I think that woke everybody up.''
At least Bynum needs no waking up. There is optimism as the Lakers head to Boston for Games 3, 4 and 5 on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, respectively -- and Bynum is a primary reason why.
Bynum, playing with a torn meniscus in his right knee that will require surgery after the season, had looked lethargic in the West finals against Phoenix, averaging 7.2 points and 5.7 rebounds, well under his regular-season averages of 15.0 and 8.3. Then, before the NBA Finals, Bynum said his knee was drained but it didn't do anything, and the swelling came back.
But look what Bynum has pulled out of his hat in the Finals. He had 21 points and seven blocks, both career playoff highs, in an unexpected 39 minutes Sunday, raising his Finals scoring average to 15.5. He's grabbed six boards in each game.
"It's definitely a better matchup. More halfcourt,'' Bynum said of battling Boston's Kendrick Perkins, a traditional center, rather than going against the up-tempo and less orthodox Suns. "I'm doing as much as I can. The knee is not any worse. ... I'm confident going out there. I understand what I have to do to attack this team.''
Now, if only Lakers reserve Lamar Odom could play well at the same time Bynum does. While Odom looked good against the Suns, averaging 14.0 points and 11.8 rebounds, he's done little so far in the Finals, averaging 4.0 points and 4.5 rebounds.
The Phoenix series featured Suns star Amar'e Stoudemire saying Odom was "lucky'' when Odom grabbed 19 rebounds in Game 1. Well, it seems Odom's luck has changed.
Odom was in foul trouble throughout Sunday's game. He finished with three points, five rebounds and five fouls in 15 minutes.
"Just stay on the court,'' Odom, who also was in foul trouble when he logged 21 minutes in Game 1, said of what he has to do better. "I didn't play. ... I couldn't really contribute much, just in spirit. That the way the ball bounces sometimes.''
Perhaps in an effort to try to take some pressure off the temperamental Odom, Jackson pointed the finger at himself about Odom getting into deep foul trouble with three quick fouls after entering the game late in the first quarter.
"My fault,'' Jackson said. "He got, bang-bang, two fouls immediately and I turned to my crew and said, 'Do you think he can play through this?' And, as I was talking to them, he got his third foul.''
The Lakers, who certainly aren't worried about star guard Kobe Bryant bouncing back from a pedestrian outing (by his standards) of 21 points, have to figure Odom will get going a least a little in Boston. If so, the Lakers could enjoy a much bigger advantage in the post than they had anticipated in the series.
Starting power forward Pau Gasol is playing some of the best ball in his life. After totaling 25 points and eight rebounds Sunday, he's averaging 24.0 and 11.0 in the Finals. And Gasol's counterpart, Kevin Garnett, is playing some of the worst ball of his career, with two-game averages of 11.0 points and 4.0 rebounds.
Yes, the Lakers need to find a way to stop Boston's backcourt duo of Ray Allen, who had a game-high 32 points Sunday, and Rajon Rondo, who had a triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. But Bynum's play has been a quite a bonus.
"He had two days between games,'' Jackson said. "I thought he recovered really well off of some swelling that he had on that knee. ... (Bynum is in) as good a physical shape as he could possibly be in at this time of the year.''
The 39 minutes Bynum logged were his most since 42 on Jan. 12 at San Antonio. His seven blocks were two shy of the NBA Finals record set last year by Orlando's Dwight Howard.
"Bynum played a great game,'' said Boston big man Glen Davis. "He did a great job. But we've got to make adjustments to make sure he doesn't have games like that.''
Imagine. The Celtics will make adjustments in this series against the not-so-long-ago limping Bynum. Now, if only Odom can provide something for Boston to worry about, the Lakers are a good bet to give Jackson at least one more home game.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson