Join our live Google+ Hangout today at 11:30 a.m. when Times Lakers blogger Eric Pincus and Clippers reporter Brad Turner discuss their respective teams.
The Lakers got some much-needed good news on Tuesday night with the return of Pau Gasol in a 101-100 victory over Charlotte. As Times columnist Bill Plaschke wrote,
"Gasol's return to the Lakers lineup in a 101-100 victory over Charlotte on Tuesday night reminded me how sick I am of hearing folks say the Lakers would be better off without him.
"No, the Lakers would be better off with a system that fits him. They would be better off with a game plan that accommodates him. You don't trade him. You work with him. You adjust around him. You win with him, which is exactly what they did Tuesday night.
"Granted, the Lakers are a complete mess. They needed a last-second defensive stop to beat Charlotte a team that had lost 11 consecutive games. They didn't guard anybody in the second half of a possession. They didn't look for scoring from anybody but Kobe Bryant down the stretch.
"The Lakers and their coach, Mike D'Antoni, looked completely baffled against the reckless young Bobcats, but Pau Gasol is not part of the problem, he is one of the solutions.
"After the Lakers trailed by as many as 18 points midway through the third quarter — yeah, it was downright embarrassing — Gasol entered the game for Dwight Howard with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter and the Lakers trailing by 10.
"By the time Gasol departed early in the fourth quarter, the Lakers led, 86-84, having outscored the Bobcats 16-4 during his stint.
"During that time Gasol didn't do anything flashy, but everything smart and strong. He set two huge picks that resulted in four points. He helped out on a double team that resulted in a turnover. He made two free throws after fighting for an offensive rebound. After his second pick set Bryant free for a layup and eventual three-point play to give the Lakers the lead early in the fourth, Bryant and Gasol literally bumped heads, two old guys reveling in the power of the savvy veteran.
"It was great," Bryant said of Gasol's return after an eight-game injury absence. "He makes the game so much easier for everybody. . . . He's a great decision maker."
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