2012 has marked plenty of firsts for Lakers center Andrew Bynum.
For the first time in his career, he was selected as an All-Star for the, started every game (outside of his early season suspension) and even knocked down a three-pointer.
On Sunday, Bynum provided a first Los Angeles has been waiting for since drafting him in the first round seven years ago: living up to his potential.
As Kobe Bryant provided his usual dominance on the offensive end, Bynum was busy eliminating any attempts close to the rim.
His defensive presence carried the Lakers to a 103-88 win over Denver in Game 1.
The 7-footer tied an NBA record for blocks in a playoff game, turning away 10 shot attempts and helping limit the Nuggets to 35.6 percent shooting from the field.
With Dwight Howard recovering from back surgery in Los Angeles, the most dominant center in the post season was on full display at the Staples Center.
Throughout the season, Bynum has been both exceptional and frustrating.
Just by typing his name into Youtube offers a quick glimpse of the ups and downs of the 24-year-old center.
In his first game back, Bynum torched Denver, scoring 29 points along with 13 rebounds and two blocks during a 92-89 Lakers victory.
During a loss to Memphis, he scored 30 points and knocked down the first three-pointer of his career.
The following game in Golden State, he launched another attempt from beyond the arc, this time as the Lakers were trying to set up their offense, that missed badly and forced coach Mike Brown to sit him for an extended period of time.
He responded two nights later by totaling 25 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks against Oklahoma City.
In 60 games, Bynum logged 37 double-doubles, one fewer than his total from the past two seasons combined.
For the first time in 462 combined regular season and playoff games, Bynum posted a triple-double.
Bynum finished with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks, registering the first Lakers triple-double in a playoff game since Magic Johnson in 1991.
Los Angeles was concerned about limiting the Nuggets offensive attack while Metta World Peace, the top perimeter defender on the team, serves his seven game suspension for elbowing James Harden a week ago.
The Lakers averaged 5.3 blocks per game during the regular season, but swatted 15 shots Sunday afternoon.
Bynum made a concentrated effort to stop the Nuggets from scoring and surpassed Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s franchise record for blocks in a playoff game in the process.
Anytime the Lakers needed a stop, Bynum was there to send a shot back.
Here’s a quick look at each rejection:
- First quarter, 8:45- Ty Lawson has a four-foot jumper blocked
- First quarter, 7:50- Kenneth Faried has a lay-up attempt turned away
- First quarter, 2:41- Al Harrington has a dunk attempt erased
- Second quarter, 3:15- Lawson’s four-foot runner rejected
- Third quarter, 11:25- Faried’s five-foot jumper blocked
- Third quarter, 7:09- Faried’s hook shot blocked
- Third quarter, 4:41-Harrington has a jumper from four feet away turned back
- Third quarter, 2:03- Andre Miller has 11-foot jumper blocked
- Fourth quarter, 6:11- Danilo Gallinari‘s lay-up is rejected
- Fourth quarter, 3:01- Timofey Mozgov has a hook shot sent back
Los Angeles never trailed Sunday afternoon and the game was essentially out of reach after the first quarter, as the Lakers built a 27-14 lead.
The Nuggets made just 22-of-60 attempts and had 14 shots blocked in the paint. With the inside game shutdown, Denver couldn’t connect from long range either, shooting 4-of-14 from beyond the arc.
Denver couldn’t recover from its slow start as Bynum kept sending their shots away and Bryant was lighting up the scoreboard.
Bryant put the game away by scoring 15 straight points for the Lakers in the fourth quarter, finishing the game 451 playoff points behind Abdul-Jabbar for the second most all-time in the post season.
The Lakers have knocked out Denver each of their five previous post season meetings and with a strong performance, need three more wins to advance.
With 10 rejections in a playoff game, Bynum etched his name in the Lakers record book and established himself as the most dominant center in the 2012 playoffs.