Lakers/Nuggets: Welcome Back Andrew Bynum

Darius Soriano —  December 31, 2011

Lakers 92, Denver 89 (box score)
Offensive efficiency: Lakers 97.9, Nuggets 94.7
True shooting %: Lakers 51.5%, Nuggets 52.5%

The Good
Andrew Bynum returned and showed exactly why everyone has been pining for him to get back on the floor with this team. He made an immediate impact on the game, showing that his combination and size and skill can the a real difference maker for this team. His numbers – 29 points on 18 shots, 13 rebounds (6 offensive), 2 blocks, and 1 assist – tell part of the story, but not entirely. Obviously the stats are fantastic and proved that in any give game he can carry the load on both ends of the floor by providing real production. On a night where Kobe (17 points on 18 shots) wasn’t sharp with his shot Bynum filled the scoring gap that LA needed to win this game. And in a game where Denver threw out their own super-sized lineup of Nene and Mozgov as their big men, Bynum’s work on the glass kept the Nuggets honest in being able to fully push the ball as he did major work on the offensive glass and made the Nuggs stay in their backcourt securing rebounds.

Beyond the numbers, though, Bynum did what he would ideally do on every night – he put everyone into their normal slots on both ends of the floor by moving Pau to PF and helping the integrity of the defense by allowing guys to pressure the ball a bit more and then protecting the rim with force whenever a Laker was beat off the dribble or if a big man tried to take control of the paint. The domino affect was real as Bynum manned the pivot on both ends, allowing Pau to work the elbows and shallow wing on offense and be a secondary helper on defense. Bynum’s presence also meant that the offense could work more through the post and create better shot distribution across the entire team. Kobe took a few less shots than normal (maybe if his shot was falling he’d have been a bit more aggressive) but Bynum and Gasol combined for 28 shots and worked 18 feet and in most of the night. This put loads of pressure on the interior of the Nuggets defense and allowed the Lakers many open shots from the outside (more on this in a minute).

Overall, for his first game back and with obvious wind issues after his first stretch of minutes, Bynum played about as well as one could hope and showed how he could impact the floor on both ends. If he’s even 80% this good on any given night, the Lakers have added an all-star to their lineup and that’s something any team would love to be able to say after 4 games.

The Bad
In the game preview I mentioned that the Lakers would need to play a deliberate style and not get caught up playing at the Nuggets’ pace. Well, that didn’t happen. At all. The game ended up having 94 possessions which easily ranks as the fastest game the Lakers have played this year. Too often the Lakers took the quick shot rather than being patient and running their sets and it rarely worked out for them. Long jumpers early in the clock fueled Denver run outs and hasty passes that resulted in turnovers did the same. Considering the advantage the Lakers had inside most of the night, going inside more often should have been the plan but the Lakers shunned that advantage to play loose and in the style of their opponent. The Lakers survived the day mostly because the Nuggets were even more mistake prone and couldn’t make enough shots that they’d typically bury, but that’s not a plan the Lakers can depend on nightly – and certainly not tomorrow night when these teams play again in Denver.

The Ugly
After shooting well from the outside against the Knicks, the Lakers fell back into last year’s habits of not being able to hit an outside shot. They only hit 2 0f their 24 attempts from deep (8.3%!!!!!), and some of them weren’t close at all. Blake went 0-6, Kobe 0-5, and Fisher 0-2. Even Kapono only buried 1 of his 4 attempts from distance. Some of this was fluky, of course, but it’s a bit disturbing that even when the guys were getting good looks they couldn’t  seem to find their range. With Bynum back, the Lakers shooters will be tested more than ever as defenses collapse to take away the paint. If they can’t make defenses pay, the ugliness we saw today will be repeated too many times for anyone’s comfort.

The Play of the Game
With the Lakers down two and only two and half minutes remaining, the clock was starting to become an enemy and every possession more valuable. So, with the shot clock running down and a desperation heave forced to be taken, the Lakers looked like they’d have to fight for another stop after the Nuggets secured the ball. But, that never happened as Derek Fisher (the guy who was forced to shoot against the clock in the first place) hustled his tail off to secure the rebound and then call a timeout before the Nuggets could tie him up for a jump ball. The play earned the Lakers another possession which ultimately led to two Kobe Bryant FT’s that tied the game. The Nuggets wouldn’t score again and that possession proved to be the key to LA’s late mini-run that won the game.

Darius Soriano

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42 responses to Lakers/Nuggets: Welcome Back Andrew Bynum

  1. I asked Mitch at the game who was sitting right in front of me for a moment If the odom first rounder is lottery protected. He laughed and said yes. Oh well. We have to hope now that Dallas makes the playoffs.

  2. Play of the game was Bynum blocking Nene’s shot on one end and hustling back to score on the other.

    Or actually, the play of the game for us was Gallinari missing the layup.

  3. Against a deep and fast Denver back court, it will be astonishing if Morris gets another DNP tomorrow.

    For all the talk about Bynum’s poor conditioning, it seemed to me that he looked fantastic. He ran the floor enthusiastically, and was quick off the floor to fight for rebounds. If he is able to stay healthy, this kind of performance is very much within his grasp on a regular basis, and if that happens, I’d look more towards New Jersey for a Pau for Williams trade than to Orlando….

  4. #2. Yeah, any of those would have been great as well. I just thought securing possession at that point of the game was huge considering the Lakers trailed at the time.

  5. Not only is the Dallas pick lottery protected, but I thought I read that Dallas gets to choose when to actually give it up over something like the next 6 years, so it is pretty much worthless.

    I was very young then, but I miss the days of fleecing Utah and Cleveland for the chance to draft Magic and Worthy.

  6. Oops, the Jazz were still in New Orleans when the Magic pick was acquired.

  7. Everyone sounds kind of surprised at what Bynum was able to do. This is what is expected of him. His only problem his whole career has been trying to stay healthy. So all we can wish for is to see Bynum on the floor the whole season with no setbacks.

  8. Must admit I am impressed.

    Happy New Year to all. Here’s to another championship before Kobe retires !!!! As we move into 2012, don’t forget that our 32nd trip to the finals, is the minimum goal. We are entitled, because we are LAKERS !!!!!!

  9. Endgame with Kobe needs to change. But for some huge mistakes from Denver this would have been another close loss with Kobe doing most of the damage in the last couple of possessions.

    Otherwise, a lot to be pleased about.

  10. Happy New Year to everyone at FB&G! :)

    Fisher’s dive and grab at that critical moment was huge. It reminded me, once again, why for all his shortcomings on the court I will never stop respecting him. The man is a fighter, and puts a whole new twist to “leading by example”. Biggest “YES!” of the night, on that one.

    Blake played well, but shot poorly. So did everyone else. I swear, we couldn’t have bought a three if we’d been willing to give up that TPE we got for Lamar…

    Bynum in Beast-mode is a joy to see. It’s good to have the big boy back. :)

  11. kobe was terrible in the end. he was watching his shot in the end of the game instead of hustling back. sorry but no excuse for that

  12. Another solid game from McRoberts.

    He hates “McBob” or “McRob” or whatever, and so do I.

    If he manages to keep this up for another, say, 15-20 games, I propose we call him “McRambis”

  13. this team reminds me of the Dodgers when they won the pennant with Kirk Gibson, our wild bunch reminds me of “the Stuntmen”. these guys are not prima donnas, they hustle. they are not superstars, they dive for loose balls, make up for the lack of talent with heart and desire.
    this is going to be a fun team to watch, and root for!
    both Fish’s hustle and ‘Drew’s block and score on the other end are worth of play of the game in my opinion.

  14. What happened to Devin Ebanks? Did anyone hear why he didn’t play?

  15. Today’s Lakers win shows the grit and determination of this team. This was an ugly game and somehow they found a way to grind out the win.

    Yes, they got some help with the missed shots from the Nuggets. But had they not taken advantage of those opportunities the result could have been different.

    With the Lakers playing their sixth game in eight nights tomorrow, getting a win in Denver will probably be even more difficult. But if they play with the same grit and determination they played with today (and as Darius mentioned controlling the pace a little better would help) they will give themselves an opportunity to come up with back-to-back victories.

  16. Kobe: Until he retires the last two minutes belong to him and he deserves it. Yes, he has been cold in the end so far this year, but we are still calling play #24 every time.

    chris h: I like your Gibson analogy for amusement, but the LAKERS do not win that way. We are superstar driven, showtime, get outta our way !!!!. That underdog, loose ball stuff is East Coast :)

  17. Btw… Andrew Bynum has been at least our second best player for every game since the all star break including the playoffs. Can we start calling Pau our third best yet? This is no disrespect to Gasol who is a top 3 PF in the NBA, but Andrew is again “The Beast” we saw a few years ago before he went down on Odom’s foot. I haven’t seen him move this well since right before that first injury.

  18. In your recap you forgot to mention World Brick was 0 for 8 with 4 turnovers and is shooting 10% for the year in three’s. This guy is clearly not smart enough to figure out he can’t shoot farther then 3 feet from tbe rim.

    Keep Andrew and trade for a small forward who has some offensive ability. Metta is just plain terrible.

  19. Been telling everyone who will listen: these Lakers are a little less talented than last year but they have the components of being a much better TEAM. If nothing else,m they have been infinitely more satisfying to watch than last year.

    They are light on ball handling penetrators and raw athletes but have:

    PLAYMAKERS: Kobe, Gasol* (* sometimes)

    SIZE: bynum, gasol, mcroberts, murphy

    HUSTLE: Barnes, Mcroberts, MWP, Fisher, Murphy

    3 pt SHOOTERS: Kapono, Blake, Goldilocks, Kobe

  20. #16. Funny you say East Coast ball… as this is now the identity taking shape for the Lakers being brought by Mike Brown’s system. This is more evident on the defensive end (compared to Jackson-era Lakers) where they are more aggressive, and disruptive with the offensive schemes, P&R’s and basic sets of the opposing team. Reason why McRoberts and Murphy were brought in as well. These are blue-collar bring-your-lunch-pail-everyday type of players that fit so well in Brown’s system. They are more of a gutty, physical and grind it out team on both ends of the floor, which is really east coast style.

    With that said, I love how this group is playing. They will now have a chance of being in every game they play, as well as staying close with a chance of stealing it at the end when they aren’t playing well (like tonight). If they can still have that cerebral (jackson) style and combine it with their new identity, then this team will be every fan’s dream team.

    As much as I want Ebanks to get some burn, I really think Barnes’ experience, defense and aggressive style is what the starting unit needs. Then the one who’s playing well or is a better defensive matchup for the opposing SF should close games out (Barnes, WP, or Ebanks). Same for the PG spot. Kobe, Pau and Drew are the staple closers, while it will be by committee for the PG and SF spots

  21. Yeah, let’s trade for another small forward because Artest had a bad game following three very good ones.

    We already have 5 of them fighting for playing time, and they each bring a specific skill to the table. Barnes – energy and rebounding, Artest – still an excellent defender, Kapono – outside shooting, Ebanks – youth and speed, Walton – great hair.

    The only trade this team should make is for a starting PG.

  22. Happy New year to all the folks here at the FB&G. The game was slow and Gallinari missed layup was unfortunately the play of the game. Didn’t like Gasol today overall, Bynum was Bynum and we couldn’t hit a 3-pointer.

    2012 will be better.

    Cheers

  23. 5 games in 7 nights might be a reason the shots from distance didn’t slip in. Don’t expect tomorrow to be any better with 6 games in 8 nights and Denver altitude.

    If we come out of the first 10 games, 6-4, that will be an excellent sign. Even .500 should be acceptable. 3-2 now. DEN on a home and home. Day off then a tough but beatable HOU, day off and an always difficult PDX. The Dubs the next night and the Grizz after a day’s rest. It’ll be nice to see the team concentrate on shots within 15 feet, unless wide open, and riding Big Drew. This is going to be one tough but meaningful week.

  24. @20 – good points about the glut at the 3 – with Bynum back everything shifts a notch, there’s just not the same minutes for the swing guys. Ebanks has a future ahead of him but Barnes knows every trick in the book and he’s going to find a way to make himself useful in a Mike Brown system, he’s just that kind of player.

    Add my Happy New Year to the chorus – such a great site to hang out at.

  25. Bynum almighty, feed that man the ball. His offense looks so effortless, and going up against Nene, one of the better interior defenders. Lets keep those knees intact.

    Happy New Year to everyone at FB&G! This is my first source for Lakers news year round, and no where compares with such expert analysis and compelling narratives (JM was a great free agent pickup:)). Keep up the excellent work guys.

  26. Happy New Year to all of you. Hope everyone is safe and enjoying themselves.

  27. Happy New Year!

  28. Happy new year to all and sundry at FB&G. Thanks to Darius for continuing Kurt’s work in such fine fashion. We’re already approaching Jan 2 here in Australia, but I only landed back here from LA yesterday, so my body’s still on Californian time! Stay safe everyone.

  29. Everyone hating on Pau’s game is trippin! The whole game he was popping out to the elbow and doing his best Dirk impression, draining a lot of key shots, keeping the defense honest for Drew.

    Pau must be the most underappreciated star in the league, honestly. He’s the perfect compliment to Drew and Kobe, we’re not at all a championship-caliber team without him.

  30. @King Kobe

    The problem with Pau is that he refuses to turn into Drew when Drew is not on the floor and he is. He stands at the top of the key or at the elbow instead of posting down low where he needs to be so we can run the same offensive schemes. It’s like he’s scared to go down there.

    To all Fisher haters. While I agree we DEFINITELY need another starting point guard, Fish is still good for Heroic plays. I screamed like a mad man on that play. Going after the loose ball in control, knowing the clock and when to shoot, and then hustling on those old twigs to secure the rebound!!! I applaud Fish for having the presence to never say die. Seeing the clip of him beating Boston on “The Drive” and watching Kobe’s reaction (Oh crap they’re going to kill him!! Is he alright? OMG he made it, YES!!!) brought tears to my eyes. Kobe loves and respects Fish because the man is a warrior and he should be allowed to die on his sword. Long live Fish (just at the end of the bench next year).

    Oh BTW, watching that Celtic clip also reminded me how dirty KG really is. He tried to knock Fisher’s head off instead of going for the block. Probably embarrassed because the old man ran around him to get to the bucket.

  31. BILL PLASCHKE

    Just read Sunday’s article on Drew. The dude really hates Bynum. How about we trade Plaschke for a point guard instead.

  32. Busboys4me,

    Pau does not have Drew’s game. He is not an effective low-post presence, nor should we expect him to be. During the Sacto game, Pau was bullied around precisely because he lacks the weight to go toe to toe with the likes of Cousins and Hayes. Bynum has 35 extra pounds on the same frame as Gasol. All that muscle shows as a world of difference in the type of game he plays. Pau doesn’t have the weight, but he has developed a refined game that makes him potent as a 4. He can play spot minutes at the 5 and be pretty effective. Still, don’t expect him to push around others teams’ heavyweights.

  33. Plaschke: It all depends on what your standard is, with regard to Bynum. If you expect him to make all star teams, and help us to championships, you feel like Plashke does. If you are OK with Bynum playing 80% of the time, being slightly hobbled during the playoffs, and being inconsistent, then it is all good. As many have said, we need him to take the next step. This was a good start.

  34. Pau has hands almost as stonish as kwame’s.

  35. Sometimes guys have cold games from the 3pt,but the whole team? Many were good looks,so go figure. With a new coach and systems we`re still in pre-season form with Brown trying out different rotations. I`ve always been Pro-Bynum,and when a guy like Chandler can get $12 mil+ it shows how valued tru centers are with just average talent

  36. 31. Plaschke is dramatic. Plaschke is saying don’t get excited about after one game bynum because of his past injuries, yet he was saying the lakers need a trade immediately after 2 games. He believes sky is always falling when it comes to the Lakers.

  37. Sure, let’s keep listening to Plaschke, the same guy who wrote countless columns demanding the Dodgers get rid of Matt Kemp.

  38. You know it’s time to retire when you get an articles written about you for diving on the floor for a key loose ball inanity a regular season game. Even Ron Artest has to score 19 points for two straight games for that kind of coverage. Derek Fisher has a story about him in every publication for last nights hustle play. Sometimes you know it’s time to call it a career when people have lowered the bar for you so significantly that a nine point, 6 foul, one loose ball effort is a great game for yourself worthy of several articles. This might have been the game where Derek jumped the shark.

  39. Plaschke: Again, if you want a championship, then the skies look more threatening. If you want hustle, moral victories, and competiveness, then the weather is just fine. This is why it is so difficult to predict the weather.

    Aaron: With regard to Derek – I agree – but it would have been better if u had said – “Fish jumped the shark” : )

  40. Plaschke: If you are a young African American athlete who thinks for himself and doesn’t call me “sir,” we have a problem.

    He didn’t like Shaq and Kobe either, until they won so many championships he had no choice but to shut up.

  41. Plaschke kills me. I don’t dispute Bynum has shown some immaturity, but with players bringing guns into locker rooms and showing up on the police blotter for things of a more-serious nature, Drew’s traffic-ticket-related antics seem pretty harmless by comparison.