Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
From the moment Pau Gasol arrived in Lakerland, championship dreams materialized for the fans. Now that the Finals are here, they're wondering if he'll disappear.
They watched his effectiveness decline each series, from 22 points a game on 58 percent shooting against Denver, to 18 points and 56 percent against Utah to 13 points and 45 percent against San Antonio.
Check the comments on the Los Angeles Times' Lakers blog from Game 1, when Gasol had 15 points and eight rebounds, and you can feel the animosity growing.
|LAKERS VERSUS CELTICS|
Boston 1, L.A. Lakers 0
Game 2: Sun., 8:30 ET, at BOS
"It's OK to get contact, Pau. You're bound to at least draw the foul."
"Can somebody teach Pau how to box out?"
"No effort in rebounding, no consistent shot, no heart."
"Gasol, go play for the Sparks."
"Looks like I'll have to gas up my Trade Pau Gasol Bandwagon."
Thanks to Boston's defense -- especially big men Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett -- one of the off-day buzzwords has been "physical." And if this were the word-association segment on the old Roy Firestone "Up Close" shows, that word wouldn't conjure up Gasol.
Even teammate Kobe Bryant said, "You run into Perkins and Pau in an alley, you're probably going to go Pau's direction."
The playoffs are about revelation, not transformation. Unless some stray gamma rays intended for David Banner mistakenly strike Gasol, he isn't going to turn into a rampaging brute. This is who he is, so we might as well try to emphasize what he does well.
"I think his skill and everything that he does gives him a huge advantage in his length," Bryant said. "So it's not about us being tough or anything like that. You've just got to play a little bit harder."
A good game by Gasol is critical for the Lakers because when he plays well, he makes Lamar Odom better. Odom has flourished thanks to the attention defenses give Gasol and often winds up with layups on give-and-go or post passes from the Lakers' Spanish center.
If Gasol stays on the move he also can get easy baskets on passes from Bryant when Bryant draws the defense's attention. In turn, Gasol can make life easier for Bryant if he is a scoring threat.
"We want to make sure we establish a post presence and play inside-out a little bit more," Gasol said. "I think that's going to help our offense and hopefully also get me a little more in the lane and being aggressive, and force them to play a little defense on me. I think that should be interesting. Hopefully. That would be great."
His voice trailed off and didn't sound that confident at the end. Not exactly what Lakers fans wanted to hear.
Video coach Bob Salmi points out what the Celtics did to free up Paul Pierce in the second half of Game 1 and shows how Kevin Garnett can get easier scoring opportunities.
Even though he missed a lot of open shots in the series opener, Kobe Bryant had more than his share of spectacular plays, video coach Bob Salmi says.
During Game 1, the arena was loud. The music in the stadium was, I swear, several decibels louder than your normal stadium music, and the fans weren't silent, either.
Yet through the cacophony, all the way across a massive arena, even up in the rafters, one noise was clear as a bell.
Phil Jackson's whistle.
When he inserts his pinkies in the corner of his mouth and blows, I have to believe you can hear that thing a mile away.
To read the full blog, click here.
|Year and Round||Opponent||Result|
|2008, Finals||Boston Celtics||?|
|2007, First round||Phoenix Suns||Lost 4-1|
|2006, First round||Phoenix Suns||Lost 4-3|
|2004, Finals||Detroit Pistons||Lost 4-1|
|2004, Conf. semis||San Antonio Spurs||Won 4-2|
|2003, Conf. semis||San Antonio Spurs||Lost 4-2|
It seems obvious that for L.A. to improve upon its poor overall shooting in Game 1 (32-for-77, 41.6 percent and 3-for-14 from the 3) it must first get more efficient production from Kobe Bryant. In Game 1 Boston did everything it could to disrupt Kobe. The Celtics put up a wall around the paint every time he worked with a live dribble, their off-ball defenders took an extra step toward him when he dribble-attacked, and they aggressively hedged him when he used ball screens.
Those actions induced Kobe into taking far too many jump shots from the perimeter -- at least far too many when he was not "in the zone." More importantly, taking those shots early in the shot clock, or after just one or two dribbles, allowed Boston's defense to stay organized near the rim. That helped the Celtics control the defensive backboards. Limiting L.A. to seven offensive rebounds -- Pau Gasol grabbed nine by himself in the series clincher against the Spurs -- was a large part to the Celtics' victory.
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Although Kevin Garnett is focused on bringing a championship back to Boston, he took some time to pose in a Chelsea FC soccer jersey.
The Suns wanted a coach who would preach more defense and hold the stars more accountable. Is Terry Porter the guy?
Obviously, Steve Kerr thinks so, and certainly it's great to see Porter get a plum job after his bizarre, two-months-after-the-season firing from Milwaukee in 2005.
But as far as his track record is concerned, the results are a mixed bag. Porter's two seasons at the helm of the Bucks are his entire body of work thus far, and let's just say they're open to interpretation.
Check out Hollinger's full blog.