Pau Gasol hasn’t looked like himself for almost two years. It has been two years of nagging injuries, role changes, and a different coach. He has always been an analytical player, examining how a defense reacts to the player movement around him before making an initial move to the hoop. He’s not renowned for profound defensive ability, but, with less than two minutes to go at the end of the 4th quarter, Pau Gasol made a series of plays to help the Lakers to victory.
Now, Gasol didn’t show great defense throughout the game. When he checked back into the game for Sacre midway through the 4th, the Bobcats had two straight uncontested layups. A large reason for Sacre’s increased playing time, is because of his paint protection defensively, but also, the ability to execute subtle moves on the offense end to improve spacing. He’ll execute a proper screen, not just a brush screen. He’ll run to the right spot on the pick and roll situation and get easy opportunities at the hoop. He’ll box out his man more effectively, and give a chance for the team to get a defensive board. His increased playing time is well-deserved.
The Bobcats use Al Jefferson as a primary #1 option on offense. He has the wingspan, baseball mitts for hands, and varied post moves to create high percentage shots in the paint. The Bobcats went to him, against Gasol as a defender.
Defensive Stop #1.
Isolated with deep low block position, Al Jefferson went to work on his sweet spot. Drop steps. Pump Fakes. It didn’t matter. He had a shot from point-blank range and he missed. The Bobcats got the offensive board, but it led to a Kemba Walker miss from behind the arc.
Defensive Stop #2.
Gasol gave up any kind of defensive rebounding position to contest a baseline jumper from a Bobcat guard. He use his length to contest a fadeaway jumper along the baseline out to 17′. Miss. Defensive rebound.
Defensive Stop #3.
With 13 seconds left to go on the clock, Al Jefferson was once again, isolated against Gasol on the low block. He received the ball a bit farther out, but went to his go-to move, a jump-hook. The shot missed the rim altogether. The shot clanked off the backboard and the ball ended up in Gasol’s hands.
Gasol at the Free Throw Line.
Simply put, hits both. It gave the Lakers an 88-85 lead.
Defensive Stop #4.
With 6 seconds left on the clock, the Lakers had Gasol defend the inbound passer, while Meeks, Kobe, Young, and Johnson were on the floor to switch defensively if necessary. Ben Gordon received the pass, took a 3-point shot that was wide right. Al Jefferson grabbed the offensive board and went for a layup. Gasol blocked the layup, for emphasis.
Gasol is a model Laker citizen. He’s the ultimate team player, a fiery player when things are going for him. He may be a step slower. He may not be as strong as he was compared to the championship years. But, he has something left in the tank and his commitment to winning is still there. While he may not have the best relationship with D’Antoni, and some Laker fans may not think too highly of his recent play, it’s a series of plays that he executed during the Bobcats game that goes easily unnoticed. It is something he deserves credit for. Bryant recognizes it. We, as Laker fans, should too.
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