Despite two impressive games by the Lakers, most basketball analysts are still not comfortable calling the Lakers legitimate contenders for the title. The reason for the uncertainty is the type of season the Lake Show put together this year.
The regular season was filled with ups and downs. At times, they appeared unstoppable. Other times, they looked lost. However, this is the playoffs. Teams like the Lakers have the experience to switch up gears and play at a totally different level.
The biggest switch for the Lakers is Andrew Bynum. Yes, Bynum and not Kobe Bryant. Bryant is already expected to be stellar during the postseason since he lives for the playoffs. Pau Gasol will put up consistent numbers, just as he has done for the past five years of regular and postseason play in purple and gold.
Andrew Bynum is the X factor for the Lakers, which has already been shown this season and in the first two games of the first round. Bynum is the best center in the West and is arguably the best center in the league. If Bynum continues to put up the numbers he has been, he would undoubtedly top Dwight Howard as the league's best center.
In Game 1, Bynum proved that he doesn't need a great offensive game to dictate how the game plays out. His triple-double performance, featuring 10 blocks, seemed to turn a light on in Bynum's head.
After displaying concerning signs of immaturity earlier in the year, Bynum has shown great progress since the weeks that Kobe Bryant missed due to his shin injury. Bynum appears to understand his impact and influence on team and their chances of winning a 17th title.
"To me, the difference in the game is Andrew Bynum," Lakers coach Mike Brown told reporters. "He can control the game without shooting a single shot if he wanted to. He can literally control the game without taking a shot. That's how good he is. He had 10 blocks here [in Game 1], but I'd be curious to know or see how many he probably changed. He changed a gazillion shots in the paint."
So far, Bynum is averaging 18.5 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and is shooting 63 percent from the field in the playoffs. These are the numbers that Bynum can easily put up every game when he is focused and playing with passion.
Bynum is the X factor for the Lakers this postseason, which is something Kobe Bryant and the rest of the team are well aware of. If Bynum continues to perform at his current level, the Lakers are true contenders and stand as a serious threat to end the playoffs with the Larry O'Brien trophy in hand.