Pau Gasol may not have the force or vast defensive impact of Dwight Howard, but his Game 1 performance provided a convincing case that Gasol is one of the best all-around bigs in the game.
Put him in the high post, and he set up plays for his teammates while pulling Kevin Garnett away from the basket. Put him in the low post, and he backed down KG and Rasheed Wallace while drop-stepping his way to glory. Flip to the other side of the court and Gasol was providing exquisite help on Boston’s perimeter players (note his end-of-shot-clock block of Ray Allen on a pick-and-roll switch) while also staying home on Garnett and helping around the rim.
Then, there’s the doozie: eight offensive rebounds, which matched the Celtics’ team total. Those extra possessions are back-breakers for a quality defensive team, and near the top of the list of explanations for Boston’s Game 1 loss.
Kevin Arnovitz captured Gasol’s Game 1 performance in exquisite video over at TrueHoop, in which he captured Pau’s balanced offensive and defensive impact. There was no facet of the game in which Gasol lacked in last night’s game, and his outing is well worth revisiting.
However, just as pertinent is a question posed by Arnovitz regarding his play in these playoffs juxtaposed with his 2008 run:
On Thursday night in Game 1, the Lakers dominated the Celtics in the
paint (48-30) and in second chance points (16-0). Kevin Garnett, often
regarded as the paragon of intensity, spent most of his evening
confined to the perimeter. Meanwhile Gasol set up shop at the elbow
and, when he wanted to, down on the low block. Should we ascribe
Gasol’s success to toughness, or is it the fluency that comes with
applying that varied skill set over and over and over again for more
than 28 months in a system that runs on trust and precision?