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Saturday, April 17, 2010
Saturday's number: .760

By Brian Kamenetzky

This would be the Lakers' winning percentage (38-12) with both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the lineup.

It's a happy figure, particularly after Bynum finished his second straight practice Saturday in El Segundo, again feeling no pain in the left Achilles tendon forcing him from the final 13 games of the regular season.

In the battle of tangible things impacting the series (as opposed to real-but-more-abstract things like experience), Bynum's presence may be the most important aspect of the matchup. The Thunder aren't exactly steeped in size, with Jeff Green starting along side Nenad Krstic. Green is 6'9", undersized to guard Gasol, and while Krstic is an honest seven-feet, he's not exactly a devastating interior presence. Behind them is scrappy-but-smallish Nick Collison, and the athletic-but-raw Serge Ibaka.

Bynum was a monster in three games against the Thunder, averaging 19.3 points on 62.9 percent shooting. Only once in four meetings were both of L.A.'s bigs available... and that's the one the Lakers won by 16. Obviously a small sample size- they don't get smaller- and came extremely early in the season, but Lakers fans hope its instructive.

From a statistical standpoint, Bynum and Gasol don't necessarily benefit from the presence of the other, but the team does. Bynum's presence creates easy points on lobs to the basket and putbacks, something the Lakers badly need. Together, they create almost impossible matchup issues for the opposition. Few squads have the personnel to guard both. More good looks inside mean fewer long jumpers, and therefore fewer long rebounds to fuel a fast break. And so on.

I don't expect Bynum to swoop in and dominate. Likely, he'll be rusty. But a week ago, I'm willing to be a lot of Lakers fans figured he wouldn't be in uniform tomorrow, despite Bynum's promises. I'll admit to having doubts, and after a run of bad news the Lakers couldn't have picked a better time to again visit the other end of the spectrum.