- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers 101-87 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday ...
It's the Lakers' version of the chicken and the egg.
What came first: the Lakers defense looking dominant because of Andrew Bynum or Andrew Bynum looking dominant because of the Lakers' defense?
No matter what the answer to the question, the result of the game was more of the same as L.A. throttled Atlanta with Bynum leading the way with 16 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks.
"It made me feel like I could find a little bit of a niche on the squad and find where I’m supposed to be," Bynum said of his new responsibilities this season as the rover in the middle.
And it's found the Lakers right where they need to be with the playoffs fast approaching and their play rising to a championship level.
Despite a right knee that is still less than 100 percent (Bynum admitted to taking pain medication for it Tuesday), the sixth-year center continues to put mind over matter and drag his teammates along with him.
"He played through injury last year and actually played better," said Ron Artest. "He played through a knee that was almost gone. He played even tougher last year and now he’s healthy, so, of course, this is nothing."
Said Kobe Bryant: "He’s playing phenomenally well. He’s just doing everything we can ask him to do."
And everything Bynum is doing for L.A.'s success is bringing everyone on the Lakers together on and off the court.
"You start to come together more as a team and that’s where we’re at as far as this part of the season where we’re at right now," said Lamar Odom. "Our camaraderie, what we think about each other, how we feel about each other and how we all love to win is showing on the court."
Bynum's 16 boards gives him a staggering 50 rebounds over his last three games. The 7-footer has always been OK on the glass, averaging 8.2 rebounds for the season and 6.9 for his career, but he has taken it to another level.
"He’s pursuing the ball," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "That makes such a difference when that big guy goes to where the point of the ball is coming off. He’s gotten challenged on rebounds and he’s still coming down with them. His hand strength and arm strength is dominant out there. Not only his size, but he is challenged on rebounds and comes away with them."
Bynum said that his extra effort has led a bit of clarity in understanding the art of rebounding.
"Really, it’s just activity. It’s as simple as that. I just want the rebound. That’s all it comes down to. That’s the only thing I changed mentally is go get the ball," Bynum said. "What wound up happening is you wind up seeing the ball and starting to understand which way it’s going to bounce. Once you get that, you just go get the ball."
One nasty streak ended, as the Lakers busted out of their three-game losing streak in Philips Arena, and one gnarly streak continued as L.A. ran it's current win streak out to eight games, matching the longest they've had all season when they started the year off 8-0.
"We talked a little bit about finding some place to get on a roll this season and we haven’t [before]," Jackson said. "This is something that we wanted to do. We’ve been waiting for this team to show that character again and I think it’s just taken a matter of determination and focus."
During the streak the Lakers are holding opponents to just 87 points per game while averaging 98.8 points per game themselves. For comparison's sake, during their three game losing streak right before the All-Star break, L.A. averaged just 87.6 points per game while allowing their opponents to score 100.7.
Bynum revealed just how far the team wants the streak to go.
"We have a team goal where we want to do better than we did last year," he said.
Last year the Lakers won 57 games. This season they have 46 wins with 17 games left to play so in order to have a better record than in 2009-10, they'd have to go 12-5 down the stretch. Add that to the 8-0 streak they're already on and achieving that goal would send L.A. into the playoffs with a 20-5 post All-Star break record. Not bad.
Not much to nitpick about this game other than the fact that just like in San Antonio, the bench let the opponents back within striking distance so Jackson had to put his starters back in the game midway through the fourth quarter to right the ship. The Lakers led by 22 late in the third quarter and a lineup comprised of mostly bench players (Shannon Brown, Lamar Odom, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Bynum) allowed that margin to dwindle to 13 with 6:56 remaining in the fourth.
"They have to have more of an idea of what they’re doing when they go out there and I have to probably give them more direction," said Jackson. "Matt’s still coming back and functioning as a part-timer right now and he’s not fully engaged in the offense."
Atlanta's starters were outscored by L.A.'s starters by 14, but both benches were tied in points 27-27.
While we're on the negative, the Lakers also had 10 turnovers which isn't an egregious amount, but when they did throw the ball away they weren't quick enough in transitioning back on defense. They gave up 20 fastbreak points to the Hawks.
"When we turned the basketball over, they just got a run-out or a layup so we have to really take care of the basketball when we play," Bynum said. "When we do that and make teams play halfcourt, it’s going to be really tough to get beat."
Seen in the locker room after the game: Jackson wrote one simple message on the white board -- "10 Bus" meaning that the bus would leave the arena at 10 p.m. Only Jackson drew a smiley face in the zero.
Moses Malone played 19 seasons in the NBA and three of them (1988-91) were spent in Atlanta. Bryant came into one of Malone's seven NBA homes and eclipsed Malone's career scoring mark, moving into No. 6 on the all-time NBA list by passing Malone's total of 27, 409 with a made free throw in the second quarter. Click on the link to read more about Bryant's latest scoring feat and to find out who is up next at No. 5. Hint: I have a feeling passing the name at No. 5 will mean more to him than all the other legends he's leaped over this year combined.
Next up for L.A. is a Thursday date with the reeling Heat who have lost five straight games. PJax channeled his inner Jimmy Dugan when considering what it means that Miami's players were brought to tears following their loss on Sunday to Chicago. "This is the NBA: No Boys Allowed," Jackson said. "Big boys don't cry. But, if you're going to do it, do it in the toilet where no one can see." There is plenty more Heat reactions from the Lakers where that came from, read the rest here.
Waiting for Odom in Miami will be his wife, Khloe Kardashian. Other than the married couple enjoying each other's company, the pair will be working as a film crew will follow them to gather footage for their reality TV show that is set to debut on E! sometime in April.
"It's cool," Odom said. "It will be fun for me because the summer is going to be long. After the season is over, I think [filming] will be a little bit more fun for me."
Quote of the night: "I’m going to have some good sushi tonight. I don’t want to think about the [Heat] game now. I can’t wait to get to Miami. I’m going to get some sushi and some fish, some edamame and some uni." -- Artest on his dinner plans for when the team lands in Miami late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning.
Stats of the night: After holding the Hawks to just 39.8 percent shooting, L.A. has now held six of their eight opponents since the All-Star break under 40 percent from the field ... For the season the Lakers have assisted on a respectable 49.1 percent of their made baskets, but they moved the ball even better Tuesday as they assisted on 69.2 percent on the night (27 assists on 39 makes) as every Lakers player to take the floor registered an assist.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.