I caught the Lakers vs. Boston game this morning, and if you wonder why you didn’t know about that and still be reading this blog, shame on you. Here’s the RSS feed for the ‘Next 20 Basketball Events’ category, the feed for the site as a whole (which includes everything, including our much sought afterPBA notes), and instructions for Google Reader to get you going. It’s 2009. Wisen up already.
So anyway, this post is about insight into the just concluded game, Pao Gasol, and my argument that Pao Gasol is not ‘soft’, in that order. So here goes:
- Jeff van Gundy and the rest of the analyst crew were calling it right when they were surprised that Ray Allen, as top gun of Boston’s relief lineup, was not getting touches down the stretch. The Lakers were understandably double teaming him, leading Boston to go to Tony Allen more often. Boston’s mistake was that, recognizing this, they never let Ray touch the ball as a result. Conversely, the Kobe Bryant method of ‘double team me and I’ll pass it to one of my capable teammates (see Pao reference below)‘, worked to perfection, as he gets the ball primarily, dishing off when and as needed, leaving the defense in a tizzy.
I call this a coach’s mistake more than anything, as Boston never tried to deviate from their strategy. At this point (somewhere around the start of the 4th), the relievers needed to be more productive giving way for the 1st five, and their failure to make use of Ray-Ray effectively, whether as the main guy or a decoy, gave way to the eventual Lakers’ run.
- Kevin Garnett is just truly awesome – I know it’s like saying the sky is blue, but really – it’s hard not to be impressed. He plays like its the playoffs all the time, blocking shots, getting boards, shooting jumpers from left, from right, from 8 to 15 feet. I think maybe you kind of get used to his intensity so much you tend to overlook it, so in regular season games when you see him play with and against guys in ‘regular season’ mode, it looks so much more impressive. It’s like watching a racecar perform in a shopping mall parking lot. Everything else seems so distantly unimpressive and slow.
- KaPao!! – And now my main point of this post: I have heard and read from various sources that Pao has a reputation of being ‘soft. I would like to submit the ff. evidence contrary to said statement:
And finally Item 3: 20 pts., 3 rebs. 5 assists – which are the usual. What’s not usual was his performance down the stretch, where he scored seven of his 20 points in the final three minutes, providing the BIG difference where the other stars of this game (and there were many, from Bryant to Pierce, KG, Rondo, Allen, etc.), seemed to have equalized one another.
Granted this was flawed Boston strategy again. Recognizing it was late in the 4th and therefore Kobe time, they were often open in the middle, with no help defense reacting fast enough to guard a cutting Gasol. By the time they do he already had the ball, either shooting it or rolling towards the basket. What separates a star from the rest is their ability to deliver on ordinary layins and shots during crunch moments, and Pao put his stamp on those final few minutes. An all-star he is, world – class even. Definitely Not Soft.
For the most part I’m going away from this morning’s vastly entertaining game with respect for Pao. At the moment, with his ability to shoot reliable Js, layup with either hand, and ability to go strong, he doesn’t seem to have a weakness, or at least none I can see yet.
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