Way back when, on a night that must seem impossible to remember for Celtic fans after last night’s Game 1 loss, utter domination on the glass clinched the team its 17th NBA Championship. They outrebounded the Los Angeles Lakers 48-29 that night, finishing with an absurd 14-2 advantage on the offensive boards. If last night’s game is any indication, the Lakers remembered that atrocity, and remembered it well.
Celtic fans reveled in the team’s 131-92 win, the biggest ever in a clinching victory. And, in what seemed like frustrated excuses at the time, Laker fans pointed out the absence of Andrew Bynum in the line-up as the main reason for the team’s single-handed destruction of the L.A. frontcourt and commanding of the glass. Well, two years later, it looks like they might have been right after all.
The oft-injured 22-year-old, who had his knee drained on Monday in preparation for the Finals, is used to playing through pain. Bynum, averaging 9.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in the playoffs, helped the Lakers control the glass to the tune of a 42-31 advantage. His final line of 10 points and six rebounds did not properly demonstrate his importance to the team’s Game 1 victory. Opening the game with a surge of aggressiveness, Bynum helped set the tone early in his team’s 102-89 win. For a team that was so thoroughly dominated in the paint by Boston in 2008, Los Angeles looked nothing like the Finals squad that had its title hopes dashed by its rival only two years earlier.
Though much of the talk in the aftermath of Game 1 will deservedly focus on Lakers center Pau Gasol, who finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds (eight of them offensive), Bynum’s presence in the paint was equally as important in providing opportunities for the Spaniard on both ends of the floor. With Kevin Garnett showing his age, the younger Lakers frontcourt was able to thrive in last night’s victory. With a sufficiently healthy Bynum and vengeful Gasol, the Lakers are certainly in a position to control the glass for the remainder of the series. And if that ends up happening, the NBA Championship may very well find its way back to Los Angeles for a second straight year.
What do you think? How important is Andrew Bynum to a Lakers victory?