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Bynum, World Peace Annihilate Spurs On Awesome Night For L.A. Sports


I've given up trying to understand this Lakers team. So little about it makes any sense. By any rational pregame assessment, the Lakers were headed to their doom tonight in San Antonio, considering the quality of the opposition (excellent), the setting (not Staples Center), their starting shooting guard (Devin Ebanks) and their recent form (somewhere between mediocre and bed-wettingly awful). Oddsmakers favored the Spurs by an entirely understandable 10 points, marking the first time since the bad old days of 2007 that the Lakers were double-digit underdogs. This should've been a write-off game, a night to take lumps and look ahead to the rematch back in Los Angeles next week.

Ah, but we should've figured the weirdest season in memory had another bizarre left turn in store for us. Out of nowhere, the Lakers came up with an awesome defensive performance, holding the explosive Spurs (who entered the game second in the NBA in offensive efficiency) to 0.94 points per possession. And when the Lakers are rocking and rolling on D, you can be certain Andrew Bynum is leading the party. The epically talented, endlessly mercurial center controlled the game from beginning to end. His 30 rebounds put him on a list with some of the all-time greats: in Laker history, only Kareem, Wilt, Mikan and Elgin hit that number. And with his galaxy-wide wingspan he transformed the Spurs' offense into an entirely perimeter-based operation. (As a team the Spurs made 35 percent of their two-point shots.) In style and impact, Drew's performance brought back memories of his electric run after the All-Star break in 2011, when the switch got flipped in his head and for about a month he destroyed every opponent who ventured into his lane. Not the lane... his lane.

Drew being Drew, he couldn't let the evening pass without doing something to annoy the higher-ups. At least this time he waited for the postgame interview, when he... well. I could tell you, or I could show you.

(Thanks to @jose3030 for capturing the always delightful, always useless KCAL profanity delay.)

Also, Bynum tried to steal the ball from Steve Blake. That would be Steve Blake, Laker and Andrew Bynum teammate.

The Lakers' dominance on the defensive glass was something to behold. Granted, the Spurs aren't super aggressive when it comes to crashing the offensive boards. They came into the game ranked 24th in offensive-rebounding rate. Still, for the season they've recovered about 25 percent of their own misses, and tonight that figure dropped to 2 percent. Their first offensive board didn't happen until about midway through the third quarter. Between missed field goals and missed free throws, they had 46 opportunities to rebound the rock at the offensive end, and they managed to do so only once. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was a once-in-a-lifetime rebounding performance. It's possible none of us will ever see it happen again in an NBA contest.

Almost as much a surprise was the play of Metta World Peace. At the beginning of the season MWP looked intolerably bad, one of the worst players in the league, and I kind of suspect that had the Lakers been able to unload his contract they'd have happily done so even if it meant getting nothing in return. A couple months into the campaign he started to show some life. His shooting numbers inched up and he began to assume an unexpected playmaking role in the Laker offense. He had a strong, 14-point game against Portland in late March. In the past seven days or so, his game has made an impressive leap. He scored 23 against Houston and 19 in Phoenix, shooting efficiently in both games. Tonight he was the second-best player on the court. Not only did he light up the Spurs with 26 points on 10-for-15 shooting, but in his ballhandling (?!) and all-around floor game he was a controlling force. His strip of Tim Duncan and transition lay-in with 8:24 left in the third quarter kicked the Laker lead up to 13 and triggered the blowout that followed. Metta, you're now forgiven for that weird inbounds pass the other night.

How nervous did you guys get in the fourth quarter? After MWP buried a crazy, flat-footed three to put the good guys up 26 with about eight minutes left, a cold snap set in. Eight straight scoreless possessions by the Lakers and three made triples by the Spurs cut the lead to 17. A couple Danny Green jumpers chopped it down to 11. Not until Steve Blake, who actually played pretty well tonight, buried a three (off a tip-out by, you guessed it, Metta World Peace) did the win feel really secure. I can't say I ever got nervous in the fourth, but the thought occurred to me that I should get ready to get nervous.

Now the Lake Show rolls back to L.A. for a three-game homestand. They've been awful this season when it comes to following up statement victories. Beat Miami, lose to the Pistons and Wizards. Beat the Clippers, lose to the Rockets and Suns. You don't need me to warn you not to read overmuch into a single W, however exhilarating.

A few other notes from a fun-as-hell Wednesday.

  • Ramon Sessions (10 points, five assists, four turnovers) doesn't look himself. Is it the injured shoulder? He took another hit to it tonight and said it "hurt bad."
  • I like what Matt Barnes is doing these days, but as usual, I'm certain it's just a matter of time before his threes stop falling.
  • Kobe looked pretty happy on the bench, yes? With the third seed in the West nearly locked up, no need to rush him back. Let him get some use out of those smartly tailored suits.
  • Free Jordan Hill! He was available and active today but got the DNP-CD. Come on, Mike Brown: Troy Murphy isn't that critical a rotation piece.
  • As usual, Gregg Popovich captured the night's events with gravelly pith. Said Pop after the game: "They beat us to death."

This has been an amazing night for L.A. sports teams. The Lakers demolished a hated rival. The Dodgers won and have the best record in baseball. Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top two high-school ballers in the country, committed to UCLA. And as I'm typing this the Kings are on the verge of pulling a Game One upset over the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Life is good, my peoples!










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Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore. Thanks to Gary Collard (@LakerGMC on Twitter) for the info on past point spreads.

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