NBA finals, Laker Celtics Game 1: If the power forward matchup is key, Boston is in trouble

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gasol_2_game1.pngPau 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?

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

Greg Smith
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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.

Kevin Durant with huge dunk on visiting Fenerbahce Ulker

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Welcome to America, Fenerbahce Ulker.

The Turkish powerhouse was in America playing some exhibition games this preseason, and they got a first-hand reminder that Kevin Durant is back. KD had 13 points in the Thunder’s easy 111-81 win.

Not to be outdone, Russell Westbrook got in on the act.