Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo goes for a reverse layup against Pau Gasol and… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The shots kept clanging off the rim, but Pau Gasol didn't want to pass up open looks.
So he kept firing away. But Gasol just kept missing.
The Lakers lost 102-96 Sunday to the Memphis Grizzlies by the time this exercise ended, and Gasol had little to show for it. His 16 points on four-of-15 shooting featured five of those missed field goals coming off midrange jumpers. Yet Gasol said that won't deter him from taking the same shots again.
“I have to keep shooting them if I’m open,” Gasol said. “They’re not forced shots. You got to be confident, step in and knock them down.”
That approach hasn’t worked for the past two games. He’s gone a combined nine-of-29 from the field, and 12 of those attempts came on midrange jumpers. Yet, the formula worked in another two-game stretch. In last week’s trip to Houston and Dallas, Gasol scored a combined 48 points on 23-of-30 shooting, with 12 of his made field-goals coming off midrange jumpers.
That’s why Lakers Coach Mike Brown argued “hindsight is 20/20” in regards to whether Gasol either should’ve driven more to the basket or facilitated more during his brief shooting slump. Still, Gasol’s recent slide coincides with Ramon Sessions starting at point guard, where the two generate most of their offense together through pick-and-roll sequences rather than post-ups. Brown described Gasol as a “multi-dimensional big” and argued that it’s more appropriate to feature him at the top of the key since Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace command a post presence.
“There’s not going to be a ton of touches for us to continually go at Pau night in and night out,” Brown said. That leaves the pressure on Gasol either to knock down mid-range jumpers with consistency or convert on second-chance points. That’s come with mixed results. According to NBA StatsCube, Gasol has shot 43% on midrange jumpers, while converting on 47% of his shots in the paint and making 65% of his looks in the restricted area. That's a sharp decrease from last season’s numbers where Gasol provided a better balance between shooting in the paint (29.3%) and off midrange shots (30.3%).
Meanwhile, Gasol has combined for 30 rebounds in the last two games, but that hasn’t translated into offensive production. He had only five offensive rebounds and none of them resulted in any putbacks. Through 14 games in March, Gasol has recorded his highest shooting percentage this season (51.4%), yet his points per game dropped last month from 18 to 16.5.
Gasol encountered a similar issue in late January, where Bryant’s high-volume scoring and Bynum’s post emergence pushed the Lakers forward into assuming a facilitating role. Then, he publicly expressed the desire to have more looks in the low-post area. This time around, however, Gasol simply vowed that he’ll make the open shots that are given to him.
“There’s no excuse,” Gasol said. “If you’re wide open, you have more reason and more time to knock them down and make them pay.”