2011-12 Season

Record: 41-25, first in Pacific Division

In the first year of the post-Phil Jackson era, the Lakers were eager to prove they still had a place among the NBA’s elite following their disappointing playoff series loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Under the guidance of former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, who joined the team weeks after the season on a four-year, $18.25-million contract, the Lakers got off to a slow start to the lockout-shortened season. Part of that had to do with Andrew Bynum being suspended for the first four games for his on-court actions during the Lakers’ season-ending loss to the Mavericks the previous May. Bynum scored 29 points in his first game back and the team went on to win eight of its next 10 games. Bynum went on to have the best season of his NBA career, finishing second behind Kobe Bryant in team scoring (17.8 points per game) while finishing third in league rebounding (11.8). Bryant, who started the season with a sore wrist and was later sidelined for a game after sustaining a broken nose and concussion in the All-Star game, posted his best offensive totals in four seasons, averaging 27.9 points per game. He scored 48 points in an early-season contest against the Phoenix Suns before scoring more than 40 points in each of the next three games. He was in contention for the league scoring title until a bruised left shin forced him to miss seven games. The Lakers went on to win the Pacific Division title and third in the Western Conference.

Playoffs: The Lakers won their first two games against the Denver Nuggets, who were unable to stop Bynum from dominating. In Game 1, Bynum tied an NBA record with 10 blocked shots, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s team record of nine. However, with the Lakers up 3-1 in the series, Bynum told reporters that “close-out games are actually kind of easy.” Those words would haunt the Lakers as Denver went on to win the next two games. A strong effort by Bynum, Pau Gasol and Steve Blake, who scored a playoff career-high 19 points allowed the Lakers to win Game 7. The Lakers then faced the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals and dropped the first two games on the road, which included a Thunder comeback in Game 2. The Lakers won Game 3 after Bryant went 18 for 18 from the free-throw line to score half of his 36 points. After losing a late lead to drop Game 4, the Lakers won Game 5 and Game 6 only to lose Game 7 despite a 42-point effort by Bryant. It marked the second consecutive year the Lakers had been eliminated in the second round following their 2010 NBA title.

-- Austin Knoblauch

Playoff results:
Western Conference quarterfinals
at Lakers 103, Denver 88
at Lakers 104, Denver 100
at Denver 99, Lakers 84
Lakers 92, at Denver 88
Denver 102, at Lakers 99
at Denver 113, Lakers 96
at Lakers 96, Denver 87

Western Conference semifinals
at Oklahoma City 119, Lakers 90
at Oklahoma City 77, Lakers 75
at Lakers 99, Oklahoma City 96
Oklahoma City 103, at Lakers 100
at Oklahoma City 106, Lakers 90