Bynumâ€™s Big Test. What a game from Andrew Bynum last night, obviously his best as a Laker â€” 20 points with a true shooting percentage of 74.6%, pulls down 14 boards, blocked three (changed many more) and is a team-best +14 on the night. He anticipated well on the defensive end and controlled the boards. It was a breakout-type game, I could spend the rest of this preview on superlatives.
But the biggest challenge for Bynum has been conditioning and focus game in and game out â€”he needs to be ready to go tonight.
A couple nights ago I caught a chunk of the Portland game against the Clippers (mostly the part where the Trailblazers went to a zone that confused the Clips for a while). The front-line combo of Jamal Magloire and Zach Randolph are a force inside. Randolph really impressed me, in the past he has not been able to put his entire offensive game together (a career 46.8% eFG% shooter) but this season he seems to have put it together (51.4% on the season), is just lightning quick off the block and is showing a hustle off the ball that I donâ€™t remember. While he is the four and Bynum may be assigned Magloire, he is going to help out on Randolph or he will put up another 35, like he did on the stout Clipper front line.
Other Trailblazers who impressed. Brandon Roy just looks professional, like a veteran. The Lakers catch a break however as he is not going to play due to a foot problem. Jarret Jack will take is place and looked very quick, which could be trouble if our guards donâ€™t stay in front of him. Travis Outlaw seems to be doing everything (and the team is +30. points better per 48 minutes better when he is on the floor).
This is a very athletic team now, who could be very good in a couple of years.
Is Tex right? Was it just me, or did Odom just seem more aggressive when Kobe was resting? Odom started slow, 0-4 in the first quarter. But some of that was just missed open looks, by the end he has warmed up and was 3 of 3 in the fourth quarter. Now, in Odomâ€™s defense, he had the assignment to guard KG all night and that needed to be his focus, but still he just looks tentative when Kobe is out there.
And itâ€™s not just him, when the T-Wolves made their fourth-quarter run it was in part because the Laker offense stopped moving and became Kobe (or Odom or Smush) trying to beat a guy one-on-one with few cutters or other semblance of an offense. It works, they need to run the thing
Kwame nearly ready. Kwame Brown is expected to be cleared to play Friday night against Detroit. Iâ€™d wait a couple games to start him, bring him in behind Bynum for a while, until he proves heâ€™s really ready.
Blazers bloggers rock. Portland, in my mind, has the best team of bloggers out there (with the Celtics a close second). Blazerâ€™s Edge is one of the best in the biz (well, biz implies he gets paid, but you know what I mean). The Oregonian’s blog changed writers but still has more info than 99% of the other blogs on the planet. Blazers Blog is very solid, and the Rose Garden Blog is also a quality read. And they also have the â€œKing of all NBA bloggersâ€ Henry of True Hoop. If the Blazer team ever catches up the quality of their bloggers, watch out.
Give the man a blog. Iâ€™m a little late to this party, and itâ€™s off topic, but let me throw this out there â€” Kelly Dwyer should have a blog. See, this is where mainstream media editors just seem to miss the boat, they have Dwyer writing (well done) features and standard fare stuff, but when he just rants, as he has done in two emails to Henry at True Hoop, the stuff is gold. KD is witty and knows his hoops. Editors, let your talent breathe, give it room to do what it does best. Thatâ€™s how you drive original traffic to your site, not rehashing what I can read elsewhere.
Things to look for tonight. First, even when the Trailblazers sucked the Lakers struggled in the Rose Garden. The Blazers have won just 41% of their home games overall the last two seasons, but have taken three of four from the Lakers. This is not a gimme win.
The Lakers need to push Randolph away from the basket â€” heâ€™s got a jumper but itâ€™s not nearly as good as when heâ€™s in close and can use his quickness in the post. Heâ€™s shooting 61% in close but just 38.3% on jumpers. Easier said than done, but itâ€™s a goal. Use Odom, Turiaf, Bynum, whoever it takes but keep this guy off the boards.
The Laker guards have got to stay in front of Jack, if he gets into the lane, forcing bigs to rotate off their men, things will really open up for the Blazers. Smush and Farmar have to play their best defensive games in a while.
Second game in two nights, the Lakers need to move the ball and themselves in the offense. If they get slow, if it becomes isolation rather than crisp passing, it could be a long night. These arenâ€™t the Blazers of three years ago, these guys can play.