Lakers power forward Pau Gasol pulls off his elbow pad after a 99-84 loss… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
DENVER — — He was the four-time All-Star who became the Lakers' No. 4 scorer in the first two games of the playoffs.
Pau Gasol also happened to collect more assists in those games than Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson.
Facilitating worked out well for Gasol and for the Lakers, who won those games to take early control of the series.
Gasol became more of a shooter than a passer on Friday night at the Pepsi Center, and the Lakers seemed out of sorts for much of a 99-84 loss in Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round series.
The final tally for the 7-footer: 16 points on seven-for-13 shooting to go with seven rebounds and three assists, the last figure less than half his previous average in the series.
Gasol has been less of a scorer this season than in previous years because of the emergence of center Andrew Bynum. Gasol averaged a career-low 17.4 points during the regular season, when he was the team's third scoring option behind Kobe Bryant and Bynum.
But he also continued to develop a reputation as one of the best-passing big men in basketball, finishing the season among the team leaders in lob assists while continually feeding Bynum with alley-oop passes.
Gasol's passing prowess continued into the playoffs, exhibited by a telling exchange with Ramon Sessions after Gasol logged a game-high eight assists in Game 1, topping the point guard's five assists.
"He was like, 'I'm trying to get 10 assists,'" Sessions recalled Gasol telling him. "I'm like, 'Man, that's what they brought me here for. You're going to take my job.'"
Gasol has said he doesn't want to pass too much because he wants to retain his aggression and remain a viable scoring option.
He certainly looked to shoot in the early going Friday.
Gasol started the game taking a flurry of jumpers, swishing a 14-foot turnaround before missing on a straightaway 17-footer and another attempt from 21 feet.
"Pau … we saw him on the perimeter way too much," Bryant said. "We can't do that, we have to stick to our ground and pound game."
He finally moved closer to the basket midway through the first quarter, taking an alley-oop pass from Sessions for a dunk. Then it was back to the perimeter, where he missed a three-pointer.
Gasol, whose 13 assists in the first two games were four more than Lawson had, picked up his first one Friday late in the first quarter when he fed Bryant for a jumper.
The Lakers struggled to keep up with the Nuggets with Gasol in or out of the lineup, surrendering the final nine points of the first quarter with Gasol on the bench and then being on the wrong end of an 8-0 run to start the second quarter with Gasol back on the floor.
Gasol reverted to more of an inside presence in the second quarter, scoring on a dunk and a layup. By halftime, he had eight points on four-of-seven shooting to go with three rebounds and two assists.
His second-half baskets came on a pair of dunks and a three-pointer from the corner.