Lakers Put Out Sun(s) in the Paint

58900493Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.
The closer a given shot is to the basket, the better chance it has to go in.

Simple and common knowledge, right?

That’s why it was particularly impressive that Phoenix came into Thursday evening’s game at STAPLES Center leading the league in field goal percentage, because after all, they shoot a lot of jumpers. Yet in an 8-1 start to the season that was as hot as their nickname, Phoenix nailed 50.8 percent from the field (the only team in the league over 50 percent), including 47.4 percent from three (lava?).

58901363Of course, as Phil Jackson mentioned before the contest, that kind of shooting just doesn’t last forever (even if Steve Nash is creating better looks than Versace).

Boy, was that proven true from the opening tip against the purple and gold, when the Suns opened 4-for-18 (also known as 22 percent) and didn’t get much better, clanking and bricking to the 36.5 percent mark as L.A. dominated the game en route to a 121-102 margin for the team’s seventh win in eight tries.

There was a reason for that, as it were: L.A. scored 78 points in the paint. You know, near the hoop…

Sure enough, the Lakers barely took a shot that wasn’t within 10 feet of the hoop, scoring 20 of their first 26 points in the lane before cooling down just a little to settle for 60.9 percent shooting in the first quarter and 57.6 for the game.

No one was more responsible for that than Andrew Bynum, who was almost perfectly emblematic of L.A.’s efficient game in an impressive return from a two-game hiatus due to a strained elbow.

58900947Using his size advantage to terrific effect, Bynum offered a variety of dunks, layups and short jumpers to punish Phoenix in the paint. No, really, punish. He made 13-of-18 shots for 26 points, and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds. He wasn’t bad on defense, either, swatting three shots and holding Amare Stoudemire to just eight points on 2-of-15 from the field.

“He played extremely well and he obviously had a matchup advantage with his length and his size. He used it extremely well,” said Kobe Bryant.

Bryant was nearly as efficient, operating out of the post once again to the tune of 13-of-21 shooting, meaning he and Bynum combined to knock down 66.7 percent of their shots. He finished with 29 points in 33 minutes, plus four assists and four boards.

“It feels very good. You have to get post position and really do your job. When the team tells you to come through, you have to come through and play hard and do the work inside,” said Bynum.

Teammates like Lamar Odom (eight points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, Josh Powell (14 point, seven boards, three assists), Jordan Farmar (eight assists) and Shannon Brown (10 points including an absurd dunk rounded out a terrific all-around effort.

There’d be little time for celebration, however, as the Lakers headed straight to the airport after postgame interviews to hop a flight to Denver, where they’ll face their Western Conference Finals opponent.

Until then, some numbers:

78 The ridiculous number of paint points for the Lakers, compared to 48 for Phoenix.

66.7 Percentage of shots made by Kobe Bryant (13-of-21) and Andrew Bynum (13-of-18).

45 Bench points for L.A., led by Josh Powell’s 14 and Shannon Brown’s 10.

42 Points for Phoenix’s starters.

38.9 The one poor area for L.A. on this night, coming from the free throw line. They made only 7-of-18 from the charity stripe for a season low percentage.

1 Public Enemy rank for Louis Amundson after his put-back layup got the Suns over 100 points in the final minute, erasing the fans’ shot at free tacos.

Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.