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Lakers admire Pau Gasol's consistency during postseason run

May 23, 2010 | 10:08 am

It had served as a routine end-of-the-year type question that doesn't usually spark much of a reaction. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson in the final week of the regular season had been asked who he deemed the team's MVP, and he gave his two cents without hesitation. It wasn't the answer most would expect to hear.

"I would have to say the last part of the season would have to be Pau [ Gasol]," Jackson said. " Kobe [ Bryant] for the first 50 games, but really the last 30 I think Pau played very well for us."

This really didn't serve as any knock on Bryant, though it's usually expected he's the team's top man no matter what the scenario. But with Bryant nursing assorted numerous injuries, ranging from his right index finger, left ankle and right knee, Jackson pointed to Gasol as the man filling the void while Bryant recovered from his injuries. Case in point, he scored at least 20 points in five of the last six regular season games.

Bryant's progress on the injury front has coincided with his team-leading 27.1 points this postseason, including a recent stretch where he's scored at least 30 points in six of the past seven games. But Gasol has been there with him, posting a second-best 21 points per clip. And his impact has been felt in many areas. Though shooting only four of 11 in Game 6 of the Lakers' first-round matchup against Oklahoma City, he still managed to contribute with 18 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and, of course, the game-winning putback that ultimately clinched the series. And since that series ended, Gasol has scored at least 20 points in five of the past six games.

Gasol, Jackson and Bryant value his presence beyond what he contributes to the box score. Gasol's credited his extra emphasis on lifting weights and actually addressed reporters Saturday after getting in a little work in that department, an area he thought lacked in his first season in 2008 with the Lakers. Jackson loves how Gasol's crisp passing ensures flow within the triangle offense. And Bryant's been glad to lean on him while Andrew Bynum's recovering from a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.

--Mark Medina

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