Coming into yesterday’s matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers had a magic number of two in order to lock up the third seed in the Western Conference. After coming off yet another devastating loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the consensus was that the Lakers would limp into the playoffs and struggle to compete with the likes of the Spurs and Thunder.
Fortunately, the immediate future looks a little brighter today with the Lakers putting on an impressive come-from-behind performance against arguably the league’s best team. After digging a huge hole by letting the Thunder get out to an 18-point lead, the Lakers turned it on in the fourth to force not one but two overtime periods.
Even though the Staples Center and Lakers fans at home were still buzzing about Metta World Peace elbowing James Harden, the real controversy was about All-Star center Andrew Bynum being benched for the fourth quarter and during the first and second overtime. In his place, Coach Mike Brown decided to give new comer Jordan Hill the nod to see what this kid had what it takes against a very good Thunder squad.
The result of the risky move to bench a struggling Bynum in favor of Hill was getting a huge advantage in the frontcourt with the playoffs right around the corner. Hill really shined during his time on the floor with 14 points and 15 rebounds. This performance was so impressive that Hill may have considerably improved his playing time in the Lakers lineup moving forward.
In an unexpected display of maturity, Bynum let it be known that this was the right move by Coach Brown via OC Register:
“[Jordan] Hill played the entire fourth quarter and both overtimes and scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. ‘I was playing terribly and he (Brown) made the right decision,’ Bynum said. ‘I didn’t play well and Jordan played great, so credit Jordan with the win. He came up big for us, (Devin) Ebanks came up huge and (Steve) Blake only made two 3’s but they were huge.’ Bynum said he just had an off-day, that there wasn’t anything to get alarmed over. ‘I just played poorly. It’s easily fixable,’ he said. ‘I don’t think I was posting up hard and they were getting in front of me. I wasn’t being aggressive.’”
With all the boneheaded moves that Bynum has made this season both on the floor and off, this was a step in the right direction for the first time this season. Not only was Bynum humbled by Hill’s performance on Sunday afternoon, but he showed some respect for his head coach who really proved himself on the sidelines for the Lakers against one of their toughest opponents.