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Pau Gasol shows versatility in the playoffs

May 04, 2012|By Mark Medina

Nearly every practice ends with Lakers guard Ramon Sessions performing 20 push-ups. It means he just lost a shooting contest once again to Pau Gasol, leaving Sessions with the same frustrated feeling the Denver Nuggets have felt this first-round series when the 7-foot forward nails mid-range jumpers with deadly accuracy.

But Sessions had other concerns after finally beating Gasol after Thursday's practice. Gasol boasted to Sessions that he'll also try to record 10 assists in a game at some point.

"I'm like, man, that's what they brought me in for," joked Sessions, whom the Lakers acquired before the March 15 trade deadline from Cleveland. "You're going to take my job."



Interesting how Sessions jokes about his job security feeling threatened. If there's someone most suited to complain about a diminished role, it would be Gasol. He began the season uneasy, knowing the Lakers had tried trading him in the unsuccessful Chris Paul deal. With Andrew Bynum's emergence as a more aggressive and dominant center, Gasol suddenly became the Lakers' third scoring option.

In the Lakers' 2-0 start in their first-round series against Denver, Gasol has handled that new dynamic by mixing in a blend of what makes him such a versatile and unselfish player. He's averaged 13 points on 45% shooting by nailing timely mid-range jumpers, as Bryant and Bynum command double teams. Gasol facilitates so well that his 13 assists through two games bests Nuggets guard Ty Lawson, who's recorded nine.

"I will make the right play no matter what," Gasol said after Thursday's practice. "I always try to adjust to the team needs. That's what I'm trying to do and at the same time compete and bring everything that I got and help our team win."

Gasol epitomized that most notably within a two-minute sequence late in the second quarter of the Lakers' 104-100 Game 2 win Tuesday. After throwing Gasol a pass along the right elbow, Bynum set a pick for him on Kenneth Faried. Once Bynum rolled off the screen into the lane, Gasol threw a lob to Bynum for a  two-handed slam. On the next possession, Sessions attacked the lane, only to see the defense collapse on him. So he kicked the ball out to Gasol, who nailed an open 19-footer.

The Nuggets can devote many resources trying to contain Bynum and Bryant. But they can only do so much since they also have to account for Gasol.



"He has such a great feel for the game of basketball that we can just play through him," Brown said, which often comes in the high-post area.  "If you don't guard him, he will knock the shot down. If you step up and guard him, it leaves the middle of the paint wide open."


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