Bynum Scores Career-High 42 Points, Thanks "Kobe Nash"Andrew Bynum scored a career-high 42 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as the L.A. Lakers beat the L.A. Clippers 108-97. Bynum exceeded his previous career-high by 14 points; in fact, he nearly matched that total in the first half, when he had 25 points and 10 rebounds. Bynum scored in a variety of different ways, which is a tribute to his improving skill set, but he also enjoyed two important advantages: 1) the Clippers' two best big men, Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman, were sidelined by injuries; 2) Kobe Bryant dished out a game-high 12 assists. As Bynum said after the game, "It feels very good to go out there and play the way I did. I was able to get a lot of easy buckets. Kobe was 'Kobe Nash' out there." Bryant was credited with assists on five of Bynum's 17 made field goals and each of those feeds resulted in dunks or layups.
Although Bynum's scoring outburst will attract a lot of attention from casual fans--and from a certain stat guru who is convinced that he is more valuable than Bryant--the most significant number was Bynum's 15 rebounds, two more than he had gathered in the previous four games combined. Still, there is always room for improvement and Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who is never shy about making his points through the media, scoffed a bit at the suggestion that this was a breakthrough game for Bynum, noting that seldom-used DeAndre Jordan had career-highs in points (23) and rebounds (12) versus Bynum: "Offensively, yeah (this was a breakthrough for Bynum). But there's two ends to the game still. Don't forget that, right? That was his (Jordan's) career high too."
Speaking of career-highs, Bryant has dished out 45 assists in his last four games, his highest total ever in such a span. He had his second triple double in the past three games (18 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) after going more than three years without having a triple double at all. Bryant will likely have to play the rest of the season with his dislocated right ring finger taped to his pinkie finger, a digit which still has not been surgically repaired in the wake of the avulsion fracture he suffered around this time last season.
It is worth recalling that last year LeBron James sat out six games with a jammed (not dislocated) finger. Bryant did not miss any games (other than sitting out most of the All-Star Game) after suffering the avulsion fracture last season and it does not appear that the dislocated ring finger will cause him to miss any games this season. Bryant has a remarkable capacity to not only play through injury but to do so while performing at a high level. He adjusts to whatever his body allows him to do and quickly figures out how to be just as effective as usual. Last season, Bryant shot 3-13 from the field in the game in which he injured his pinkie and then shot 4-16 from the field in the next game--but then he shot 11-26 (just slightly below his normal field goal percentage) in the following game and by the end of the season his field goal percentage was slightly above his career average. Bryant shot 9-22 versus Cleveland in the game in which he dislocated his finger and then shot 5-15 against the Clippers but I suspect that tonight against the Wizards Bryant's field goal percentage will head back into the mid to high .400s. Prior to the injury Bryant was gaining ground on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the race for the scoring title while also markedly increasing his assist totals (reaching double figures in that category in five of his last seven games). It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Bryant to have a 40 point game with his current mangled digit; last season he dropped 36 points in the aforementioned 11-26 shooting night and 12 days later he scored 41 points on 16-25 shooting in a road win versus the Suns.
By the same token, it will also be interesting to see if Bynum's game is truly a breakthrough or if it was merely a harmonic convergence of the Clippers' lack of quality bigs combined with Bryant's pinpoint passing and ability to draw double teams. Bynum is obviously not going to even come close to scoring 42 points on a nightly basis but this was the first time in two weeks that he reached double figures in rebounding; during that time he had five, six, one, three, three and six rebounds, totals that are not acceptable for an athletic 7 footer who played between 27 and 37 minutes in each of those contests.
posted by David Friedman @ 10:14 AM