Pau Gasol played with more aggression in win against Clippers
Nearly every time up the floor, Lakers forward Pau Gasol established post position and called for the ball.
"I wanted to be aggressive and wanted to be effective and get out early," Gasol said. "It worked out well."
The Lakers' 96-91 victory Wednesday over the Clippers featured Kobe Bryant's consistency (24 points), Metta World Peace's surprising fourth-quarter effectiveness and Andrew Goudelock's even more surprising coming-out party (14 points). But it also featured Gasol playing with more aggression, a topic of conversation Lakers Coach Mike Brown and Bryant reiterated after the Lakers forward complained about not receiving enough looks in the low post.
"It's a perfect example of: He needs to be more aggressive," Bryant said. "When he's more aggressive, the ball is going to find him."
Clippers forward Reggie Evans often pushed him in the back, mauled him in the lane and delivered constant forearms on postups. Gasol played through it and didn't back down.
"Pau did a good job," said Lakers forward Josh McRoberts, who received a fourth-quarter ejection after standing up to Evans because of his antics on Gasol. "He got him out on the block and faced him up."
Perhaps Gasol took it a step too far. As Bryant and Clippers guard Chris Paul trash talked each other in the final seconds, Gasol rubbed the top of Paul's head, prompting the Clippers guard to shove Gasol's hand away and tap him on his head.
"I got a son of my own," Paul said. "I don't know if Pau got kids, but don't touch the top of my head like I'm one of your kids. I don't know what his intentions were, and it doesn't matter. I don't know if he's got kids, but I'm not one of them."
"I'm sorry he felt that way," Gasol said. "I do that all the time with my teammates. It's OK. If I touch your shoulder or back, there's nothing mean about it. It is what it is."
And what is that exactly? Gasol sent a strong message toward Paul that he won't tolerate the Clippers' guard calling him soft. Gasol still hasn't forgotten the Lakers' attempts to trade him in a deal that would've landed Paul. And he showed that he's willing to fight.
It's a much better alternative than his passive-aggressive griping about facilitating and settling for mid-range jumpers when he's done that on his own accord. Instead of addressing this issue between each other, Brown simply gave him a hug after one play in Monday's practice where Gasol sprinted down to the low post and converted on a hook shot.
"Hopefully, I reinforced, 'Hey, if we don't call your number, you have opportunities to go post up,' " Brown said. "That's what our offense is."
And against the Clippers, Gasol's offense proved to be a thing of beauty.
On one play, he received an entry pass in the low post only for Blake Griffin to push him out. But Gasol didn't back down. He threw Griffin off balance on a pump fake, drove into the lane and converted on a hook shot. On another play, World Peace drove the lane and connected with Gasol on a one-hander. And after struggling with his mid-range jumper in the last two games, Gasol nailed those with ease.
This didn't take away from Gasol's facilitating. His dump-off pass to Matt Barnes for a baseline drive remained something to behold. So did Gasol's pass to Bryant that set up a baseline jumper off the backboard.
"We ran a couple more plays for me to get to those spots and it was intended for me to have those opportunities to attack," Gasol said. "It worked out very well."
So well that Gasol and the Lakers provided a good blueprint of how he fits in the offense. He won't always manufacture these numbers, but a persistently aggressive mind-set will help set a different tone. It'll result in more touches, more post opportunities, more physical play, and perhaps, more head rubs.
Gasol simply did it all.
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