If the Lakers are going to have any chance of advancing past the Western semis and beating the Oklahoma City Thunder then they’ll need much more from Pau Gasol and Ramon Sessions.
Pau’s playoff performance has been highly inconsistent thus far. We’ve seen him had career nights and career worst nights. That’s inexcusable for a man with as much big game experience as Gasol.
At least Sessions has the excuse of getting his feet wet in the postseason for the first time. But that doesn’t excuse his sudden shrinkage. In Sessions’ last two games he’s scored just 6 points on 3 of 15 shooting. Even worse is that he’s got just 5 assists in his last two playoff appearances.
That has all got to change and in a hurry for the Lake Show.
Pau Gasol said it himself after the Lakers finally eliminated the Nuggets. He needs to get his ass in the paint. Mike Brown is steadfast in making Andrew Bynum the centerpiece of the Lakers’ low post offense, which is fine, but you can’t keep pushing Pau further from the hoop.
Ummm…did Brown see what Gasol did in Game 7 against the Nuggets? The Spaniard didn’t go for 23, 17 and 6 by shooting 20 footers all night. Yet here we are back in the same boat all over after Gasol scores a meaningless 10 points on 11 shots without going to the foul line once during the Game 1 horror show in Oklahoma.
How Gasol can’t get to the line once in 30 minutes of play is dumbfounding. Sure, we know he’s got tired legs. We also know that he’s been consistently forced to play outside of his comfort zone. Pau is not your so-called typical Euro big man. He does more work 15-feet and in than he does 20-feet and out. Yet Brown continues his quest to make Gasol a jump shooter.
That’s not going to cut it. In fact that approach gives Oklahoma City a much bigger advantage by making Gasol play smaller. L.A. needs points in the paint to balance the Thunder and their perimeter scoring.
Ramon Sessions has a huge hand in helping the Lakers to get more buckets at the cup. When he’s breaking down defenders, getting into the lane the L.A. offense gets a new dimension added. Suddenly guys like Matt Barnes are getting open looks, Kobe Bryant gets to go one-on-one while Bynum and Gasol are free to crash the boards and play volleyball until they get the ball through the hoop.
What we’ve seen is that Session is slowing down. Whether it’s the complaints of his teammates for pushing the pace too often or just the magnified pressure of the playoffs, Sessions is looking nothing like the game changer we saw in the regular season.
For Ramon to be effective he needs to be setting the table for the Lakers’ best offensive players, getting in the lane, getting to the line and above all else keeping the defense off balance.
A lot of this falls at the feet of Mike Brown. His offensive system has never truly taken shape. In a couple of those losses to Denver the Lakers looked as if every man on the court was playing a different system. That can’t happen against an explosive team like OKC. What else can’t happen are these lack luster nights from Gasol and Sessions.
Kobe and Drew aren’t Kobe and Shaq, at least not yet. So relying on two men to dominate while everyone else plays their roles is a formula for failure. Gasol might be a team player willing to accept his role but he really needs to demand more touches closer to the hoop. The stats reflect how much better the Lakers are when he’s not a jump shooter. Same goes for Sessions when he’s playing his game on his terms.
Yes, it’s only one game but that Game 1 debacle revealed just how quickly this series can get out of hand if adjustments aren’t made ASAP.