Andrew Bynum recently said he wanted 10 assists in a game, a funny notion for a 7-footer who fantasized about someday getting a triple-double.
He got one Sunday, and it had nothing to do with passing.
Bynum represented the Lakers’ complete command of the Denver Nuggets in a playoff opener, getting the Lakers’ first postseason triple-double since Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA Finals.
Bynum had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and tied an NBA playoff record with 10 blocked shots as the Lakers cruised past Denver, 103-88, at Staples Center.
“It makes us a championship-caliber team,” Kobe Bryant said of Bynum’s second brush with team history this month.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday at Staples Center, assuming the Nuggets show up after their shots were blocked 15 times.
Bynum had 30 rebounds a few weeks ago against San Antonio, making him one of only five Lakers to hit the mark.
On Sunday, he broke the team playoff record of his former mentor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had nine blocks in 1977 against Golden State.
Bynum said the day before Game 1 that “L.A. expects us to do big things.” This would suffice.
Bryant had 31 points Sunday, but Bynum’s effort nudged him aside.
It was only the second time in NBA playoff history that a player had a triple-double including blocked shots. Hakeem Olajuwon had 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocked shots against the Lakers in 1990.
On one third-quarter play, Bynum spiked a ball into the courtside seats, stopping Kenneth Faried with such ease that he seemed almost guilty accepting a congratulatory hug from Pau Gasol.
Faried had his shot blocked three times, but that was nothing. Ty Lawson and Al Harrington were each blocked four times by the Lakers, who had 11 more as a team than Denver.
“If he continues to play like he did … being the type of monster he was today, patrolling the paint, we’ll be playing a long time,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said.
No pressure there.
“It’s not pressure,” Bynum said. “It’s just the truth. If I come out and play defense, this team is a lot better.”
The NBA didn’t start recognizing blocked shots as an official statistic until the 1973-74 season, meaning countless games of Bill Russell’s swatting and Wilt Chamberlain’s redirecting and George Mikan’s rerouting went undocumented.
But in a year marked with irreverence by Bynum, who never quite apologized for that silly three-point shot last month at Golden State and was subsequently fined by the team, he said the right things Sunday about giants of past generations.
“I respect them,” he said. “They’re the reason that we’re here and making the money that we make.”
Sunday was certainly different from last season’s playoff opener, when the Lakers were stunned by New Orleans, 109-100.
The Nuggets never led, trailed by 21 and shot an abominable 36%. Starting guards Lawson and Arron Afflalo each missed eight of 11 shots. Backup center JaVale McGee missed all six of his attempts.
The Lakers didn’t look even remotely lost in their first playoff game without Phil Jackson since 1999.
“I was happy to see the level of activity we brought into [Sunday], and we’ll need to continue to bring it throughout the series and throughout the playoffs,” said Gasol, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Bryant started slowly, making only two of 10 shots in the first half, forcing others to step into the scoring void.
Steve Blake had three three-pointers in the first quarter despite feeling so ill he could manage to eat only toast before the game.
Devin Ebanks had 12 points in the first half while starting for suspended Metta World Peace. Jordan Hill finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 24 productive minutes.
Matt Barnes made only one of six attempts, but the Lakers were happy to have his energy (four steals, six rebounds in 30 minutes) after he sat out a week because of a sprained right ankle.
Bynum, though, was the story. After all he did Sunday, he still had one wish.
“I want to get 10 assists,” he said.