Andrew Bynum Means That Much to the Lakers

Andrew Bynum’s first game off the suspension? A big 29 points, 13 rebounds night, leading the struggling offensively Los Angeles Lakers to a 92-89 win over the Denver Nuggets, while Kobe Bryant nearly finished with a triple double despite his foul trouble and torn ligament.

Are the Lakers impressing anyone? Not offensively, no. Their defense has been very good, managing to keep both the Chicago Bulls on opening night and the super fast Denver Nuggets at below 90 points. They attack the pick n’ rolls very well, and Bynum’s return to the paint make them a much more formidable blocking team.

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Kobe Bryant struggled with his shot. He finished with a terrible 6-18 and 17 points, but also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished 9 assists. The Lakers biggest achievement was killing off the two biggest offensive threats for the Nuggets, Ty Lawson (finished with nine points) and Danilo Gallinari, who finished with only 7.

The biggest story at the Staples Center was Andrew Bynum, who hasn’t played since getting ejected in the playoffs last season against the Mavs. He missed the first four games of the 2011-2012 season, but he was worth the wait it seems. Giving LA that extra body down low and easing things off for Pau Gasol made all the difference. The Lakers out rebounded the Nuggets 50-36, on a much more aggressive night.

Bynum looked winded during the early minutes, but did notch up 32 of them on the floor. Mike Brown did warn us he wasn’t planning on easing Bynum in. With the Lakers now 3-2, with the offense and defense relying on his abilities more than ever, the only way Andrew Bynum plays less than 30 minutes a night is if he gets injured, which happens every season.

The Lakers biggest problem right now looks like their lack of depth, as the starting 5 hasn’t really gotten better compared to last season, probably taking a step backwards. They got 16 points off their replacements, with Metta World Peace going for 0-8 with 0 points. The Nuggets scored 39 points off their subs, with Al Harrington leading the Nuggets with 21. A better shooting day from Rudy Fernandez (3 points, 1-6) and it would have been a different story.

But this is the Lakers this season. Very reliant on their ability to force an aggressive and slower style, while hoping the Bryant gets healthy soon enough and manages to dominate and produce good shooting percentages on most nights. But above all else, it’ll be on Andrew Bynum to become more than just a double double threat, but actually carry the offense and defense on his back. Can his legs hold up? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.