NBA Analysis: Bynum Returns, Lakers Cruise vs. Wizards

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There were two welcome sights for Lakers’ fans on Tuesday night in the nation’s capital.  One was seeing center Andrew Bynum on the court for the first time this season, and the other was watching the Lakers get an easy win over an inferior opponent.

With Andrew Bynum contributing seven points, four rebounds, and two blocks in 17 minutes off the bench, the Lakers rolled over the injury-depleted Washington Wizards 103-89 at the Verizon Center, in game that really wasn’t as close as the final score.

Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 24 points in less than 24 minutes, and unleashed a barrage of three-pointers on the hometown Wizards in the third quarter, that pushed a 10-point Laker lead to 20, and the champs never looked back.  Bryant hit three long-range shots after inexplicably missing three straight free throws when he was fouled beyond the arc.

Lamar Odom stayed in his starting role despite the return of Bynum, and scored 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds, making six of his eight shots.  Pau Gasol, maybe happier than anyone to see Bynum back on the court, scored 16 points, with nine rebounds, and seven assists, in less than 31 minutes on the night.

Shannon Brown scored 16 off the bench, and Ron Artest had a solid night with 10 points on 4-8 from the field.

Bynum generally looked good out on the floor, wearing a big brace and black wrap to protect his surgically-repaired right knee.  He struggled a bit with his shot, hitting just 1-5 from the floor, and couldn’t get enough lift to finish an alley-oop dunk, but did run the floor well for a player missing the first 24 games, and all of the preseason.

The Wizards played without rookie star guard John Wall and center Andray Blatche, and had predictable struggles all night.  While they did manage to keep the game within 10-12 points until the middle of the third quarter, they shot just 40.7% from the field, and only 3-19 (15.8%) from the three-point line, which made an uphill battle even tougher.

Nick Young, who always seems to play well against his hometown teams, scored 21 points off the bench, but needed 21 shots to do it.  Javale McGee had 12 points and nine rebounds, and Gilbert Arenas had 11 points and 11 assists, but shot just 5-15 from the floor, and 1-7 from beyond the arc. The Wizards have now dropped nine straight to the Lakers.

It was the first easy win the Lakers have had on this seven-game road trip. And with the second game of a back-to-back tomorrow in Indiana, the starters certainly must have appreciated the extended rest that accompanied Tuesday’s victory.  Tomorow night, the Pacers may be without All-Star forward Danny Granger, who is nursing a bad ankle.

More help for the Lakers up front may be on the way, as sources have said a three-team trade has been agreed to in principle, that would send veteran forward Joe Smith to the Lakers from the New Jersey Nets, in return for guard Sasha Vujacic.  That deal, however, cannot be announced until tomorrow.