Through two games against the Nuggets, it's hard to find much fault with the play of Andrew Bynum. He dominated Sunday's Game 1, hauling in 13 rebounds and with a swateriffic! 10 blocked shots (plus countless more altered (alteredariffic!)), anchoring the Lakers defense against Denver's attack. In Game 2 he wasn't as influential defensively, but finished with 27 points on the other end, plus nine boards, two assists, and two blocks.
Another honest day's work, for sure.
Still, after Bynum said he was disappointed in his game, a stance he explained again following practice Thursday afternoon. "Could have been a better performance, and you don’t get to get it back. I could have made more shots, get some more boards. That’s really it. I missed a lot of opportunities,” he said.
I think most people are willing to cut him some slack given the level of production, but the contrast in stat lines did raise the question -- and I mean that literally -- of "which Bynum" the Lakers would rather see. “I thought he played well in both games," Mike Brown said, addressing the point. "Obviously when he’s able to impact the game on both ends of the floor as much as he did in Game 1, even though he scored a whole heck of a lot more, you like that better. Realistically, I think he can do both. I think he can still impact a game defensively or control a game defensively, and he can score."
Asked the same question, Kobe Bryant said the game largely determines the performance.
“Whatever the game dictates. Game 1, because of what they were doing defensively and just the flow of the game, that’s what he did. Game 2, because just of the flow of the game, he had 27 points. It’s playing the game that’s in front of him."
There's no question Bynum has to be a presence for the Lakers to be an elite defensive team. If he must choose between domination offensively or defensively, it's a no brainer defense wins. Except why would he have to? The two aren't mutually exclusive. He's frequently been both at different points throughout the season, and certainly into the first two games of the playoffs. In Game 1, Bynum didn't put up points, but was a key cog in the Lakers attack thanks to good work recognizing and passing out of double teams, leading to open shots on the perimeter. He's a big reason the Lakers were 6-of-12 from 3-point range heading into the fourth quarter, and outside shooting was a big reason the Lakers won. Tuesday, he didn't block 10 shots but still put in a pretty solid effort defensively, and meanwhile took advantage of more openings at the other end, scoring efficiently on a night the Lakers needed their stars to be stars.
Bynum's game can't be expected to look the same every game, at least not judged by the stat sheet. What matters most is his level of engagement, and through two games he's been great in that regard.
When that happens, the results are usually strong.