- 29 points
- 13-of-18 field goals (72.2 percent) and 3-of-3 free throws
- 13 rebounds
- 2 blocks
But the 24-year-old center’s lurking physical presence in the paint was what had Nuggets coach George Karl talking after L.A.’s 92-89 victory on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles.
“His power around the basket – we haven’t seen it yet,” Karl said. “We’ll have to make some adjustments on him, there’s no question. They hurt us rebounding the ball and they hurt us with Bynum’s power underneath the basket.”
Bynum’s shot chart shows that he rarely ventured out of the lane, in favor of establishing himself as near to the rim as possible, to the point where Denver’s big men had little chance of curtailing his array of short jump hooks, layups and dunks. His new coach, Mike Brown, was able to use one of his favorite terms, “rim running,” to describe the most important of Bynum’s buckets, a layup with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter that put L.A. up 91-89, capping a 7-0 run.
“He’s a big fellow that’s extremely skilled, and he has some athleticism,” Brown began. “If he rim runs like he did on (that) play … that simple basketball play is huge … because if you do that in transition, teams don’t have time to double.
“Big fella is a load to deal with; 29 and 13 is what he’s capable of; he can get numbers like that for us once in a while.”
His efficiency was there last season, as well, but especially with a few more shots available since Lamar Odom skipped town, Bynum’s going to get plenty of opportunities.
“They’re looking for me a lot and I’m a focal point early in the offense and obviously late Kobe takes over,” said the 7-footer. “I was winded like crazy today … it’s only going to be a little bit worse tomorrow because of the altitude, (but) I think I’m going to do well again, coming in, get low, and try to go to work … defensively.”
L.A.’s defense wasn’t quite as good on Saturday as it was in back-to-back blowouts over Utah and New York in which neither team managed to shoot better than 33 percent despite Bynum’s absence, but holding that league’s top scoring team in Denver – who came in averaging 111 points – to 89 is something Brown can expect. Furthermore, his style of pick and roll defense (showing as opposed to downing) drew praise from Karl.
“They’re very good at playing an aggressive style of disrupting and guys coming at you in pick and rolls,” said the Nuggets coach.
That’s what Brown wants to hear. While he’ll certainly take Bynum’s efficient scoring day, he’s most interested in those numbers on the glass, and how hard his big(gest) man is working manning the paint on D.
It’s on that end that Brown wants to continue to see Bynum popping out aggressively to the perimeter and then collapsing back into the paint, starting tomorrow evening in Denver, where L.A. will conclude a rare home-and-away back-to-back.
Tip off is at 5 p.m. on KCAL9 and 710ESPN radio.