Lakers need a lot more than two-man show


On the bright side for the Lakers, they beat the spread, Denver minus 29 points.

Actually, the betting spread was Denver minus 4 1/2 , but after the Lakers’ Game 4 no-show in Houston, when they were down by 29 after three quarters, it remained to be seen if they a) had learned this lesson of history, and b) could do anything about it if they had.

In the good news in Lakerdom, they tried this time.

Or maybe that’s the bad news, since the Nuggets stepped on them, 120-101, stepping over their prone bodies to out-rebound them, 58-40.


In the really bad news, it remains to be seen if the Lakers just ran out of gas after a long weekend in Mile High air . . . or they’re wearing down the two star players who have to try to carry them . . . with both coming off a hard postseason, the regular season plus an Olympic summer.

Whoever the Lakers are, after all they’ve been through in the last two rounds, they’re starting the Western Conference finals all over.

So for Lakers fans, who want to know who their team is now . . .

Who knows?

Without a fourth-quarter rally in Game 1 and an indomitable performance by Kobe Bryant in Game 3, they could have been swept by now.

On the other hand . . . actually, I’m not sure what the Lakers have going on the other hand, other than Bryant, Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza most nights recently, and Andrew Bynum on Monday night.

Bynum remains the X factor, the Laker capable of taking them from a pretty good team trying to claw its way past another pretty good team, to something closer to the Lakers of old.

Of course, recently Bynum has been more of an 0 factor.

After struggling in Game 3 . . . not to mention Games 1-2 and the Houston and Utah series . . . he remained in his funk over the weekend, repeating his recent mantra (“It’s not that I’ve lost any confidence. It’s just tough to get any rhythm out there right now. I haven’t been playing enough to get into a rhythm.”)

However, Monday night, he broke out, relatively speaking, scoring 14 points with five rebounds and a block.

Significantly, Coach Phil Jackson left him on the court for 23 minutes, the most Bynum has played since Game 2 of the Utah series.

“There were a couple of plays in the first half, and the start of the second half, I wasn’t completely happy with the way he was playing, but he got determined and went out and played the kind of game we want to see him play,” said Jackson, who had gone a long time between compliments.

There’s a checklist you can use to see if the Lakers are back in any particular game:

A) Did Bynum go back to someone resembling Andrew Bynum?

B) Did Lamar Odom, who plays more when Bynum plays less, approach his level of play from February when he averaged 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, in the Lakers’ most impressive stretch of the season?

C) Did the Lakers dial up their defense to the seldom-seen level they reached in Game 7 against Houston?

Taking them in reverse order, you wouldn’t say the Lakers dialed up their defense, or played any, Monday night.

Aside from striking terror into the Nuggets’ hearts on in-bounds plays, Odom is averaging a quiet 11.5 points in the postseason.

Monday night he scored a barely audible five points, missing seven of his eight shots.

As for Bynum, we’ll see what this little warmup in Game 4 means in Game 5.

Aside from that, the Lakers had better get their rest and tend to their fingernails, because that’s what they’re holding on by.