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Pau Gasol sparks Lakers in rout

He has 22 points and 12 rebounds as Lakers win fourth in a row.

November 29, 2009|By Mike Bresnahan

Reporting from Oakland — It's almost not fair.

Give the Lakers Kobe Bryant, a rapidly improving Andrew Bynum, one of the NBA's top sixth men and one of the league's top defenders. . . . and then give them Pau Gasol.

Their true degree of success this season will not be known for another seven months, but they look undeniably strong with Gasol back in their lineup.

He had 22 points and 12 rebounds in the Lakers' easy 130-97 victory Saturday over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

The Lakers haven't exactly played championship contenders since Gasol returned from an 11-game absence because of a hamstring injury, but they have beaten Chicago, Oklahoma City, New York and Golden State by an average of 18.5 points.

And after a shaky 7-3 start -- shaky by their standards, anyway -- they have won five consecutive games.

For good measure, Gasol had three blocked shots and three assists Saturday.

"He is a remarkable player," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "We all see that."

These days, the Lakers beating the Warriors isn't so remarkable. They have now won 20 of their last 24 games against Golden State. Saturday wasn't even close.

It didn't bode well for the Warriors when Bryant went scoreless in the first quarter but the Lakers led, 36-22. Bryant barely played half the quarter after picking up his second foul.

It only got worse for the Warriors.

In fact, it turned into the highest scoring output for the Lakers since a 132-106 victory over Phoenix in February.

They can thank Gasol.

"We have another facilitator, somebody on the post that commands double teams," said an upbeat Bryant. "Pau is such a great passer and reads the floor so well, he gets other guys the ball very, very easily."

In the 11 games without Gasol, there wasn't one game where all five Lakers starters scored in double figures. In the four games since his return, it has happened three times.

The Lakers also played well defensively, which isn't always the case against one of the league's top offenses.

Warriors guard Monta Ellis was coming off games of 34, 37 and 42 points against solid competition -- Portland, Dallas and San Antonio. As such, the Lakers stuck Bryant on him, hoping Bryant could advantageously use his height differential of at least three inches.

Ellis had 18 points on eight-for-19 shooting. Bryant had 20 points on eight-for-20 shooting.

"[Bryant] had an effect on the game," Jackson said. "We wanted to make Monta have to play defense and work at the defensive end. I think it took a little away from his game."

The day started with a brush with history, the Lakers conducting their morning shoot-around at the University of San Francisco and Jackson talking to the players about former Boston Celtics and USF great Bill Russell.

"I showed them a court that had some historic value," Jackson said wistfully.

Then came Gasol's game, taking place in front of a surprising number of Lakers fans, which became clearly obvious after a loud ovation on Shannon Brown's fastbreak dunk early in the second quarter.

The night was Gasol's, though.

"He blocked shots, his defense was great, he made passes, he had assists," Jackson said of Gasol. "He looked for players when he was covered in the double team. He played a very all-around game and helped us in all categories."

The Lakers play again tonight, this time against the New Jersey Nets (0-16), who would tie the NBA record for most losses to start a season if the Lakers win.

It could be a trap game for the Lakers. Then again, probably not.

"I'm not that worried about this team's complacency," Jackson said. "They're driving themselves and their leadership is good."

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