Lakers power forward Pau Gasol looks to swipe the ball from Mavericks power… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Dallas
A select group of sports reporters had to stop and think for a second when handed a ballot last June.
Should Pau Gasol be the most valuable player of the NBA Finals?
He wasn't chosen, the honor going to Kobe Bryant, but Gasol took two of nine votes.
Now he'd get votes only for the Lakers' least valuable player.
Gasol had another forgettable night Friday in a 98-92 loss to Dallas, scoring 12 points on five-for-13 shooting in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.
He took eight rebounds in 40 minutes as the Lakers moved within a game of playoff elimination.
It's been a stunning fall for Gasol, an All-Star the last three seasons and a huge part of the Lakers' two-championship run but a nonfactor since the real games began this postseason.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson didn't know what to think of Gasol's present-day failures, so he touched on his past.
"He's been through enough playoff games to know he can come back and play a [strong] game," Jackson said.
The Lakers better hope so. Their season is riding on it.
Lakers fans have clamored for a Triple Towers lineup since Gasol was acquired in February 2008, saying taller must be better while sending a steady stream of emails to media members.
They got to see it in action most of Game 3 because of Ron Artest's suspension.
The Lakers played two 7-footers (Gasol and Andrew Bynum) alongside Lamar Odom (6 feet 10) with decent results on offense, the Lakers outscoring the Mavericks in points in the paint, 56-20.
But the Lakers were outrebounded, 39-37, and blocked only one shot. Dallas blocked five shots.
Bynum had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Odom had 18 points and six rebounds. Bynum was matched up against Tyson Chandler, Gasol against Dirk Nowitzki and Odom against Shawn Marion.
The obvious benefit — size down low on both ends of the court — could be counteracted by a lack of speed, particularly in transition defense. It's why Jackson hadn't used the lineup in a long time.
He could always point to the final minute of the second quarter in November 2009 against Golden State. It was unremarkable. With the three big men in the game together, the Lakers were outscored, 3-0, as Gasol was called for a three-second violation and Derek Fisher missed a jump shot.
Before Friday's game, Jackson wasn't even sure what to expect of the lineup.
"I don't know," he said. "We haven't seen it yet."
Where's the bench?
With Odom moving to the starting lineup, someone had to create some scoring on the bench.
Shannon Brown tried, scoring 10 points and finishing in double-figure scoring for only the second time in his last 22 games.
But the Lakers' reserves were still no match for those of the Mavericks. Jason Terry had 23 points, Peja Stojakovic added 15, and the Mavericks backups had 42 points.
Steve Blake was the only other Lakers' reserve to score, finishing with five points.