Pau Gasol returning to form for Lakers
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES – There will be no correction issued, no retraction of the earlier stance taken that the Lakers will more than likely die a quick death either before the end of the regular season or in the first round of the playoffs should they find their way in.
But the Lakers’ 104-96 win over New Orleans at the Staples Center on Tuesday night did more than put them back in playoff position. It offered a reminder that – contrary to all prior skepticism herein – they may have a few reasons to still believe in themselves after all: Pau Gasol can still play like Pau Gasol, and this whole notion of momentum being a prerequisite to postseason success that they’d been holding onto may be overrated.
Remember the 2009-10 Boston Celtics, that team that finished a mediocre 27-27 to end the season and wound up pushing the Lakers to seven games in the Finals before finally faltering? As Kobe Bryant was eager to remind the masses afterward, it can be done. It has been done.
“You really can’t find an opponent that’s really excited about playing us in the first round,” he said after a 30-point outing in which 23 came in the fourth. “That’s just the truth. We shall see. That’s why sports is such a beautiful thing. You never know what can happen. Teams like the (San Francisco) Giants and the LA Kings go on these incredible runs when the postseason comes around and everybody thinks we can’t do the same. It happens.”
And if Gasol can keep this up – if his teammates and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni let Gasol keep this up – then that’s all the more reason to wonder what sort of fun they could have playing the spoiler role in the first round.
“That’s 2010 Pau,” Bryant said with a smile afterward.
The big man who battled with D’Antoni about all the time he spent on the perimeter earlier this season was living in the paint again. There were hard drives past the Hornets’ Anthony Davis, double-moves that looked reminiscent of that 2010 title … [For more on Pau Gasol returning to form as Lakers hunt final playoff spot, click here.]