SAN ANTONIO – George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Andrew Bynum.
Those are the five Lakers who have pulled down 30 rebounds in a single game. Those are also the five reasons that Bynum’s flake-out over the past few weeks has been so frustrating.
For one, the 24-year-old center has the potential to be the driving force behind another deep run for the Lakers in the playoffs this season. For another, he could be the anchor for the next Lakers’ dynasty.
Bynum grabbed 30 boards, which was a career high for him and the best rebounding game in the NBA this season, on Wednesday night in a 98-84 whipping of the Spurs. He didn’t merely dominate the boards, he devoured them. At halftime he had 19 rebounds to just 18 by the entire San Antonio team. By the fourth quarter, the Lakers had built a 26-point lead.
They did it all without Kobe Bryant, who missed his third straight game due to an inflammation in his left shin.
They did it because Metta World Peace turned back the clock to his old Ron Artest days, dialing up 5-for-8 from behind the 3-point line for 26 points, because Pau Gasol went for 21 points and 11 rebounds and Matt Barnes came off the bench for 13 points.
“We always want Kobe on the floor with us, but with or without him, we’re always a tough matchup for a lot of teams because of our size,” said Gasol.
The Lakers are always a tough matchup for anybody when Bynum is attacking the boards, defending the paint and making life miserable for the opposition instead for his own team with his sometimes strange behavior. There were no ill-conceived 3-pointers in this one, no technical fouls, no snits away from the huddle. Just a big man playing big.
“It’s great to have 30 boards, but my shot’s, not working and I’m kind of a little upset about that,” Bynum said. “For me, I’ll remember shooting poorly (7-for-20).”
The Lakers need Bynum to continue playing big down the stretch in a frantic race for playoff positioning. They are currently in the No. 3 spot, but are up by only one game in the loss column on the Clippers and Grizzlies. They are a team that has never completely come together all season. Their longest win streak has been five games. Yet things can come together on certain nights to make them look formidable.
“We always have a good chance to go to The Finals, because we have three players that command double-teams,” Bynum said. “If we get the rest of the players to buy in, we move the ball and knock down the shots. We always have a chance.”
Mikan, Baylor, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Bynum. On nights when he proves that he belongs on that list, that’s often more than you can say for Laker opponents.