Bryant, Bynum lead Lakers past Pacers 118-96
Bynum finished second in the Western Conference voting at center with more than 980,000 votes. The fans voted Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire in as the starter.
“There are a few guys on this team, Andrew is one of them, that has All-Star caliber potential,” Gasol said. “He would get my vote, absolutely. Right now, Andrew is definitely one of the top centers in the league.”
The Pacers played in front of just their fourth sellout crowd of the year, and much of it chanted M-V-P for Bryant on several occasions.
“Kobe’s been in the league so long and he’s accomplished so much as a player, when you reach that status as a player, you have a following,” Pacers forward Danny Granger(notes) said. “I think of it the same way Michael Jordan had, and LeBron will have.”
Bryant recognized Indiana’s fans.
“It just means the home team is struggling and there’s a lot of Lakers fans in the building,” he said. “It feels good to hear a response like that, and you definitely appreciate it.”
Bryant could have done more damage, but he was content to defer to Bynum.
“He played extremely well, he was very aggressive,” Bryant said. “I really liked his activity. We made a conscious effort to pound the ball inside and he reacted very well.”
The Pacers started the 6-foot-8 Granger at power forward against Gasol and the slender Murphy at center against the 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum. Lakers coach Phil Jackson was surprised by Indiana coach Jim O’Brien’s decision to go small.
“I don’t know whether Jim was baiting us or not, but he started Murphy on him (Bynum),” Jackson said. “Drew is a plus-7-footer with probably 30 pounds, 40 pounds on him at least. It’s almost an impossible feat for them to cover Drew.”
“We went with a small lineup against a big front line. It’s tough. You’re going to give up things inside, and that’s what happened.”
Odom hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Lakers a 59-56 lead. Bynum shot 10 for 12 shooting before the break.
“I got touches down low and then I went to work,” Bynum said. “It built on itself. I made the first couple shots and then when I got the ball I was very comfortable.”
Derek Fisher(notes) connected on a 3-point play in the first minute of the second half. Bryant hit a 3-pointer, then Gasol dunked, was fouled and converted the three-point play to give the Lakers a 10-point lead.
Another 3-pointer by Bryant was met with M-V-P chants and gave the Lakers a 76-65 edge. Los Angeles kept the pressure on and led 92-78 at the end of the quarter.
The Pacers shot just 35 percent in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers led by at least nine points the entire period.
“We played them pretty well in the first half, but we couldn’t get it going and let them beat us up on the boards in the second half,” Murphy said.
The Lakers won at Washington on Tuesday, then found enough energy to close Wednesday’s game.
“They came out and really pushed the ball and got us a little out of whack,” Gasol said. “But we imposed our own rhythm and controlled the game better in the second half.”
Notes: Pacers F Tyler Hansbrough(notes) sat out with an inner ear infection. … Lakers F Ron Artest(notes), a former Pacer, made a layup on the game’s first offensive possession for his only points of the game. … Bynum scored 10 points in the first four minutes. … Indianapolis Colts players Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Matt Stover received a standing ovation when their presence was announced.