I echo the sentiments of the superlative DexterFishmore in labeling last night's debut for Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum a success. His 1-5 shooting was predictable, but he moved well and was active on the defensive end, and showed me everything I needed to see to believe that Drew is on his way to a full recovery. Per both Bynum and Phil Jackson, they will continue to bring Bynum along slowly, and AB will come off the bench for the foreseeable future. It is a strategy that has my blessing ... after tonight that is.
Because tonight's opponent is the Indiana Pacers, who recently defeated the Lakers in Los Angeles on the back of a wonderful game from their own talented and ginormous center, Roy Hibbert. Hibbert had 24 points and 12 boards, and in return held Pau Gasol to 13 points on 33% shooting. This was basically the debut of the "Pau Gasol No Funtime Hour" portion of the season, so maybe Pau will come back with fire and teach the young buck a thing or two, like he did with Joakim Noah a few games back. But Hibbert is a big, big boy, and he's got an offensive game that Noah doesn't boast. So I'd like to request that the coaches let Bynum go a little bit tonight, as Hibbert is exactly the type of player against whom playing Pau Gasol at center backfires.
The Pacers have suffered through a tough schedule since that victory in Los Angeles, going 3-5 over the past eight games with all losses being on the road, and only one coming against a team below .500. In other words, don't let that 11-12 record fool you, the Pacers are every bit as dangerous as they were two weeks ago. That said, those five recent defeats have also coincided with the Pacers failing to score 100 points, and in the past two games, they haven't even surpassed 85. The key to beating this team is shutting them down, something the Lakers haven't been great shakes at so far this season. This is where the addition of Bynum can be key. I'm not saying play the kid 30 minutes or anything, but I'd like to see his minutes used wisely, i.e. when Hibbert is on the floor. It's unlikely that AB would start, but it seems like a good idea to me to make sure that Bynum's minutes in the 2nd and 4th quarter mirror Hibbert's unless it's clear he's not up to it.
My bet is that the Lakers won't take kindly to the idea of being swept on the season by a sub .500 team and will come out with a little extra motivation. They should be well rested after distributing minutes in last night's victory throughout the roster.
Apologies for the short preview, but game time is in 90 minutes, and I'm double dipping. Check out our last preview of the Pacers for a more in depth look at how they operate, or head on over to Indy Cornrows for their side of things. But, unless you have real trouble with your short term memory, you really should know what to expect tonight.