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Pau Gasol shines when it counts

After Lakers blow a 14-point lead, Gasol makes five of seven shots in the fourth quarter.

May 19, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

Pau Gasol is no Steve Nash, be it in status on his respective team or gruesome nature of a blackened right eye.

Gasol is obviously the Lakers' second-biggest draw, unlike Nash on the Phoenix Suns, but he came through in the fourth quarter Wednesday against the Suns, even if his mild shiner wouldn't make anybody turn off a TV set.

Gasol was money when the Lakers started to short-change themselves, scoring 14 points in the final 12 minutes to help break a 90-90 tie going into the fourth quarter.

The game was up for grabs, the Lakers fumbling all of a 14-point lead, but Gasol made five of seven shots down the stretch to move them along the path of a 124-112 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

It was primarily on his shoulders down low when Andrew Bynum left for good after picking up his fourth foul with 7:32 left in the third quarter.

Not that Gasol minded. Nor his teammates.

"We have a lot of bigs, but Pau eats first," Kobe Bryant said. "No question about it. So it makes it really easy for everybody else to fall in line."

Gasol had four layups and a seven-foot turnaround in the fourth quarter. He made 11 of 19 shots overall.

"I was being effective and finishing plays," said Gasol, who ended up with a dark circle under his eye when Grant Hill fell on him in Game 1. "Obviously we just continued to go to it because it was working pretty well for us."

Bynum finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes, but said afterward that he continued to feel pain in his right knee, an ominous sign in case the Lakers go on to the NBA Finals.

Gasol might have to effectively do it alone in the post against Boston's physical front line or Orlando center Dwight Howard.

He is averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds and 3.6 assists in the playoffs. He is shooting a remarkable 58.2%.

Phoenix was plenty impressed with him, Suns Coach Alvin Gentry saying Gasol's footwork in the post was second only to San Antonio forward Tim Duncan.

Gasol even received kind words from Nash, whose swollen black eye epitomized the Suns' sweep of San Antonio in the conference semifinals.

"He's extremely long," said the two-time NBA MVP. "He's able to go both ways in the post. He can look over the defense, he can look over double-teams. He can put the ball on the floor. He's a terrific player."

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