It doesn’t take the basketball IQ of Larry Bird to see that Andrew Bynum makes a big difference for the Los Angeles Lakers. Without him, they are simply a different team. Still great, certainly, but not as formidable on either side of the court.
In his Behind the Box Score, Kelly Dwyer perfectly explained the effect of Bynum’s absence on the glass and the Lakers’ defense:
As was the case in 2008, Andrew Bynum’s absence hurt, badly. The Laker center didn’t start the second half, he attempted to play for nearly two uncomfortable-looking minutes in the third quarter, and the Celtics romped on the glass with him out. Though Lamar Odom was one of the best per-minute rebounders in the NBA this year, he was helpless and hopeless in boxing out during the latter stages of Game 4, despite his seven caroms in 39 minutes. He needed seven more.
Glen Davis just had his way, finally free to see the rim that had eluded him for huge parts of the first three games of this series. 18 points, five rebounds (four offensive) for Boston’s designated spitter.
Davis’ great game was certainly aided by Bynum’s absence — he had no problems busting up Odom. But defense and rebounding aren’t the only areas Bynum affects. His presence also changes the Lakers offense (or, more specifically, the way the Celtics defenders match up with LA), and that effect is a lot more drastic than one might expect.
With Bynum out, it freed Kendrick Perkins to defend Pau Gasol in the post. Gasol can body KG a little bit but can’t move Perk a centimeter. Perk’s the C’s best low-post defender and, when Bynum’s sitting on the bench or in the locker room, Perk can focus his efforts toward stopping Pau. And that was just what Perk did, last night. With a constant dosage of either Perk or Sheed’s length and strength, Gasol looked far more like the Big Poodle we remember from 2008 than the lion he was in Game 1 and 2.
Meanwhile, Bynum’s injury allowed KG to slide over and defend Lamar Odom. Lamar is a great talent, but the man is an enigma. And, matched against KG, a lot of Lamar’s length and quickness is canceled out. KG is moving his feet again on defense and Lamar won’t be able to get much against him at all.
If Bynum can’t play in Games 5, 6 and 7, LA could be in trouble. He says he will play but also said his knee was the size of a basketball, due to swelling. That doesn’t sound very good, even with an extra day of rest before Sunday’s Game 5.
“I’m dealing with it,” said Bynum, who doesn’t plan on draining any fluid in his knee since the procedure he took May 31 did very little to decrease the swelling. “It kind of sucks, but you have to keep going.”
Doesn’t sound too promising, does it?
Well, unless you’re a Celtics fan.