Commentary

Bynum, Gasol play together nicely

Updated: January 17, 2010, 2:50 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

The lane wasn't supposed to be big enough for both of their 7-foot frames, like a two-car garage isn't supposed to be big enough in which to park a pair of Hummers.

The 22-year-old Jersey kid with the white hairs sprouting atop his head wasn't supposed to be able to play this way alongside the 29-year-old European with brown hairs sprouting up, well, everywhere on his body from the shoulders up.

When they meshed their games together, it was supposed to sound like Roseanne Barr and Carl Lewis doing a two-part harmony on the national anthem.

But Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol changed all that Friday night in the Lakers' 126-86 win over the Clippers at Staples Center.

Bynum scored 20. Gasol scored 20. The Lakers won by 40.

Simple, right?

"Those guys -- they just dominated down low," Lamar Odom said after Bynum and Gasol scored 16 of the Lakers' first 18 points in the first quarter to take advantage of the Chris Kaman-less Clippers from the start.

The return of Gasol to the lineup after missing the past six games because of a strained left hamstring was a welcome sight, especially because the Lakers managed to go only 3-3 in that span, but there was some concern that adding the "handsome Spaniard" back into the mix -- Phil Jackson's most recent nickname for his All-Star forward -- would mean that Bynum's production would suffer again.

The last time Gasol made a comeback (after missing the first 11 games of the season because of a right hamstring injury), Bynum had only 11 points and eight rebounds in Gasol's debut. Bynum then fell into a 23-game tailspin without a double-double, which he didn't emerge from until, not coincidentally, Gasol was sidelined six games ago.

Bynum was rounding into that same form he had displayed at the beginning of the season during Gasol's most recent medical leave, putting up averages of 19 points and 11.8 rebounds.

"[I told him] just go to the post, demand the ball, do your move and play the way you've been playing when I'm not out there," Gasol said about the conversations he has had with Bynum leading up to the game.

"We have great chemistry. I want him to be as aggressive as he has been the last couple games when I've been out and as aggressive as he was tonight."

Aside from the scoring, Bynum had seven rebounds and two blocks, and Gasol had six and three.

Jackson said that getting Bynum established early was the game plan because he liked how he matched up against DeAndre Jordan, remembering that Bynum had a career-high 42 points to go with 17 rebounds in the same head-to-head battle last season.

It's not unusual for the Lakers to force the issue inside at the start of the game even if they don't feel as if they have such a blatant advantage. Scoring points in the paint and starting to command double teams down low frees up the rest of the team to operate on the outside.

Once Bynum and Gasol got it going, the rest of the Lakers had all the space they needed to go 10-for-22 from 3-point range en route to turning a three-point lead at halftime into their largest margin of victory of the season.

So why can't they do this every game and why haven't they done it before?

Theories abound as to what caused the sinking feeling fans got when Gasol and Bynum failed to sync up. The blame always fell on Bynum. After all, Gasol was the All-Star. Gasol had the better numbers and was the player who propelled them into championship contention status.

Bynum was the project with the injuries. He has been more potential than production.

Before the Lakers can expect to see Bynum and Gasol become David Robinson and Tim Duncan, there is still some work to be done.

Jackson called Gasol rusty Friday and Gasol took only 10 shots to Bynum's 13. Bynum has always started his motor by scoring and letting the confidence created carry over to the defensive end.

There are going to be games when Gasol gets 15 to 20 shots and Bynum gets seven or eight. That's probably going to happen more times than it doesn't. It's up to Bynum to not let shot totals dictate his effort.

"I want him to be aggressive and not be passive just because I get some looks also in the post," Gasol said. "We both have to be effective; we both have to be aggressive."

They have to do it together.

They proved they can, at least for one night.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

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