Sandwiched between reserve forward Lamar Odom’s revival and Derek Fisher’s clutch shooting in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 91-84 win in Tuesday night’s Game Three of the NBA Finals, was Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum hobbling to the bench in the third quarter.
Bynum reinjured his already faulty right knee twice in the quarter, reducing him to just four minutes in the final period.
Bynum later told reporters he reaggravated his knee while chasing down a loose ball and landing from a block of Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins.
Bynum’s presence through the first three games of the Finals has been huge for the Lakers, but his remaining availability going forward has the potential to reshape the whole series.
“It’s going to be a little questionable Thursday,” Bynum told reporters after Game Three. “There’s a lot of swelling in there because of the couple of little tweaks I got today. What I’m going to do is attack it all day [Wednesday], probably get three treatments in and then take it from there.”
Before limping to the bench, Bynum still managed a respectable nine points and 10 rebounds.
His appearance in this year’s Finals has given the Celtics all kinds of problems thus far, as evident by his Game Two performance of 21 points and seven blocks. Bynum is averaging 13 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in the series, despite playing only 32 minutes per game.
His presence alone has made for a clear difference from this year’s Finals and the Celtics and Lakers 2008 matchup, when Bynum was out with an injured knee.
During Bynum’s absence in ’08, the Lakers were forced to move starting power forward Pau Gasol to center and Odom to power forward, where the more physical Celtics dominated Los Angeles on the interior.
Although the Lakers went with the same lineup down the stretch on Tuesday, they were fortunate to have raced to a 17-point first-half lead—aided by Bynum’s presence—from which the Celtics had to battle back.
Los Angeles was also fortunate to have received a positive game from Odom, as the versatile reserve posted 12 points and five rebounds and came up with key baskets down the stretch.
But Odom has been inconsistent so far this series, and a possible absence by Bynum or his limited availability could put Los Angeles back in a familiar position.
The same position that resulted in a 4-2 Finals win by Boston two years ago.