Against the Spurs this past Wednesday night, Andrew Bynum joined some elite company in Lakers lore. Bynum joined Mikan, Chamberlain, Baylor, and Adbul-Jabbar as the only players in Lakers history to pull down at least 30 rebounds. That right there is some elite company. In 2010, Kevin Love pulled down 31 rebounds against the Knicks. Bynum and Love are the only players in the past 12 years to gather 30 rebounds. The Spurs as a team only pulled down 32 rebounds! Bynum's impact on the game was tangible and the Lakers dominated the Spurs for the 98-84 victory.
If you think 30 rebounds doesn't really have an effect on the game because rebounds aren't points, take a look at that score again. The Spurs only put up 84 points, and 25 of those came in the 4th quarter when the game was already decided. Bynum's dominance in the paint only allowed the Spurs to gather one offensive rebound the entire night. One! By continually forcing the Spurs into one and done offensive situations, the Lakers were able to play great defense and advance the ball up the court for extra offensive possessions. The Lakers pounded the Spurs on the offensive glass, corralling 16 offensive rebounds, with Bynum pulling down 8 of them. The Spurs may be a bit undersized, especially with Duncan playing center and Dejuan Blair at the power forward, but this team is fundamental. The Spurs are good for a reason. Popovich has them trained well and they consistently box out and play fundamental basketball. However, no amount of boxing out could stop Andrew Bynum from going into beast mode and gathering rebounds all night. Bynum's length allowed him to get his hands on the ball almost at will.
Even more interesting regarding the game was that Andrew Bynum didn't really have the greatest offensive performance. Bynum went 7-20 on the night for 16 points. Bynum just couldn't get the ball in the hole. Although he dominated the glass, Bynum couldn't finish in the paint. On multiple occasions Bynum would go up, miss, get his board, and miss again. Bynum also had 3 of his shots blocked right at the rim. Bynum seemed pretty upset with his performance after the game, stating, "I shot the ball like shit man." Yes, Andrew did shoot like shit, but he also took a positive step forward in his young career. Although Bynum wasn't rolling like he wanted offensively, he still made a huge impact on other areas of the game, notably the glass and his defensive presence. I almost expected Bynum to blow up and get a technical because of his frustration offensively, but he kept his cool and kept playing hard. By impacting the game on D and the boards, Bynum sealed the victory.
One other notable mention was the play of Ron Artest. Metta World Peace took a vacation and Ron Artest took his place. Ron Ron came out ballin! He shot 10-15 for 26 points, with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and just 1 turnover. He shot 5-8 from the land of plenty, continually hitting the open 3. Artest set his Lakers career high with his 26 points. He was aggressive all game and he looked like the Artest from his Indiana days. With Kobe out, and Drew and Pau shooting 16-44, Ron's performance was necessary. Bynum's 22 defensive rebounds allowed Artest to put up 15 good looks and score an efficient 26 points. This was by far Artest's best overall game of his Lakers career. His signature moment will always be that 3 pointer from game 7 against Boston, but tonight he showed a glimpse of his ability to take over. Artest was featured in the post on multiple occasions, and he made San Antonio pay, going 4-4 within 15ft. Artest actually started the game 2-4 for 6 points, with all of his shots coming from downtown. In the second, he went 1-3 for 3 points, shooting 1-2 from downtown. In the third he was featured in the post, shooting 5-6 for 11 points, with his only miss being a buzzer beating 3 from the far corner. Ron then went 2-3 for 6 points in the fourth quarter, shooting 2-2 from downtown. Ron's nice touch is a wonderful sight to see. When Artest is a viable scoring threat, the Lakers are much more difficult to stop. Usually, teams double Pau and Drew in the post using Ron's man. If Artest can hit open 3's on a consistent basis, the Lakers will be locks for the Western Conference Finals. I don't expect him to shoot a blistering .625 from 3, but a mid 30 to low 40 percentage would be dangerous for opposing teams. Sessions is top 5 in the NBA in 3 point percentage. No one is leaving Kobe. That leaves Artest as the only person in the starting five that can be left open to double the post. If Artest continues with some consistent shooting, teams may have to play single coverage on Pau and Drew. Let's see if Artest continues with this momentum and keeps showing up for the next couple games. Metta needs an extended vacation. Laker nation would be very happy to see Artest holding up another championship trophy and thanking his therapist.