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Pau Gasol makes the most of extra playing time

His production has gone up since Andrew Bynum was injured.

February 22, 2009|Broderick Turner

Pau Gasol stood before the media Friday night, his hair still damp after a shower, his shoulders slumped, and sighed.

"I'm tired," he said.

Gasol had just played 49 minutes of an overtime game for the Lakers.

It was taxing for Gasol, who once again had led the Lakers in minutes played.

His minutes have increased substantially since center Andrew Bynum went down Jan. 31 because of a torn ligament in his right knee, and it has taken a toll on Gasol.

He has averaged 42.1 minutes a game in the 10 games since Bynum was injured.

"Yeah, I'm playing a lot of minutes," Gasol said. "It's hard. It's demanding. But I'm not going to complain at all. I love playing. I love helping my team and doing what it takes to win. I'll be out there as long as I can and as long as they want me to. But it is challenging."

Despite the heavy minutes, despite moving from power forward to center, where Gasol often has to face stronger and bigger players, his production hasn't dropped.

It has been just the opposite.

Over those 10 games, Gasol has averaged 22.2 points on 61.6% shooting, 11.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He even had a triple-double during that stretch.

But the season still is long and Gasol doesn't want to wear down.

So he looks for moments during the game in which he doesn't have to exert as much energy, mostly while on offense rather than on defense.

"Sometimes I'm able to save up a little energy and try to use it when I need to," said Gasol, who leads the team in minutes played for the season at 36.7 a game. "It's hard to play 100% and be extremely active for as long as I'm playing right now.

"So I try to be smart about it. I try to pick and choose sometimes where I really need to work hard and use my energy, or if I need to stay back a little bit and let a couple of minutes go by."

On the road again

On the surface, the next two road games for the Lakers look like walkovers.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder are below .500 and are young teams.

But the Lakers maintain that they aren't taking anything for granted, starting with tonight's game against the 18-36 Timberwolves.

"Our plan on this trip is always the same," Lamar Odom said. "We have to defend, move the ball, get the ball inside to Pau and come back here with two Ws. The makeup and how we play and how we approach the game is basically the same."

The Lakers have the NBA's best road record (19-6) to go along with their NBA-best 45-10 record.

"The goal is to go to both of those places and play well, play hard and get a win," Gasol said. "That's our goal and that's our goal in every single game. We hopefully can play well and play a consistent game for 48 minutes."

OT recap

Through four quarters Friday against the New Orleans Hornets, Kobe Bryant was scoring at a high rate, but his shooting was off. He had made 10 of 26 shots.

But in the overtime, with the game in the balance, with his team needing him, Bryant was at his best.

He made three of four shots and all five of his free throws in scoring 11 of the team's 17 points, and 11 of his 39.


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