This is the sixth in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.
Continuing with number 11 – Pau Gasol. We’ll take an in-depth look at perhaps his defining game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
One of the more recent additions to the Laker legends, Gasol played 7 of his 18 seasons with the franchise. Between 2008-14 he played 18,952 minutes, in 515 games, scoring 9,171 points. A fan favourite of the most recent championship run, many believe that Gasol deserves to have his number 16 jersey retired with the Lakers.
A big pusher for this, of course, being the 2 championship rings he won with the repeat Lakers of 2009-10. He averaged a double-double during those championship seasons, scoring 18.6 points (2nd on the team) and pulling down 10.4 rebounds (1st on the team) a game.
There is a great bank of Gasol moments to reminisce about. One would be his dominant 29 points and 9 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns in the 2010 Western Conference Finals, ultimately helping the Lakers advance to the NBA Finals in 6 games. Another would be the tip-in winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of round 1 of the 2010 Playoffs, winning them the series.
But for this review, we have decided on taking an in-depth look at his impressive performance in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. His 19 points and 18 rebounds were key in winning the game and delivering the franchise their 16th championship.
The Double-Double That Helped Make History:
It’s the June 17, 2010 and it’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers are tied 3-3 with the Boston Celtics. The Lakers won Game 6 convincingly, 89-67. Kobe Bryant led the way with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Gasol followed with 17 points, 9 assists and 13 rebounds. Game 6 showed the Lakers that if they could hold the big 3 of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to below a total of 50 points they would have a good chance of beating the Celtics in a Game 7.
Gasol’s first involvement came in the form of an assist about a minute into the game. Ron Artest puts up a poorly advised mid-range shot whilst under pressure from Pierce, he misses and the ball bounces out for the long rebound. Gasol tips it out to the waiting Derek Fisher on the left-wing, he catches the ball as it bounces towards him and puts the open 3 pointer straight up. He swishes it home for the Lakers first 3 points of the game.
Gasol’s first points come about a minute later, he attacks the paint from the left low post but is unable to finish over the top of Garnett and Pierce. Andrew Bynum gets the rebound and tries to put it back up but misses badly, the ball is knocked loose and Gasol secures it. He muscles into Garnett and tries to put it up again but is blocked. Catching it again he quickly puts it back up a third time, scoring this time. Lakers are up 5-2.
Gasol scores next as he attacks the paint from the right elbow. Faking the shot he gets Garnett to leave the ground, taking one dribble he has Garnett on the back foot. As he fakes to the left, Garnett is wrong-footed, Gasol spins round to the right and puts a sky hook over the top of the defence, dropping it in. The All-Star big man now has 4 points.
Now early in the 2nd quarter, Gasol gets another opening. Stood at the long right elbow with the ball, he passes it out to Bryant who is in the right high post. Gasol’s man, Garnett, then quickly moves to double Bryant. Gasol dives to the rim as his All-Star teammate finds him. Now pressured by Pierce, Gasol fakes once, then turns, goes underneath the basket and finishes a difficult lay up. He finishes the half with 6 points and 10 rebounds, the Celtics lead 40-34, as the Lakers shoot 27% from the field.
Gasol’s first score of the 2nd half comes about 5 minutes in, as he posts up Rasheed Wallace. Fisher delivers the ball as the Lakers clear out, allowing Gasol to go to work in the left low post. He puts it on the ground as he backs down Wallace, taking 4 bounces before he spins to his right. Losing Wallace he puts up a left-handed skyhook, it drops through. Mike Breen remarks “So impressive, a man of that size with such skill with a basketball”, as Gasol secures his 8th point.
The next couple of plays that involve Gasol are examples of brilliant defence, in the form of 2 blocks. The first coming as Rajon Rondo attacks the rim off the screen and the second coming as Garnett tries to attack off the face-up, Gasol tipping the ball just as it looked liked he was beaten. Play comes up the other way as Gasol positions himself in the paint, he tries to rise and shoot but is fouled. He hits both free throws, making it 10 points for Gasol, securing the double-double. The Lakers are down 56-51.
The 4th quarter starts at 57-53, as Gasol gets another opportunity to score as he gets the mismatch against Glen Davis. Receiving the ball in the right high post the Lakers clear out, giving him room to operate. Gasol jab steps to the right twice and then attacks to his left, into the heart of the paint. He takes 2 dribbles as the double comes, forcing him to pick it up. He turns and spins 360 degrees, fakes the shot quickly, Davis reacts to the fake and Gasol puts his shot up. He is fouled as the ball drops through, unfortunately missing the resulting free throw. Game score now at 57-55 in Boston’s favour. Gasol has 12.
The game carries on as Gasol continues to be productive, challenging at the rim and fighting for rebounds on both sides of the floor. His next 5 points come at the line, hitting the first 2 following a foul from Garnett, Lakers are now up 70-64 with 4:38 left on the game clock. The next 2 coming as Gasol is fouled again in the paint as Bryant delivers the ball into the Spaniard.
He hits both free throws again, keeping the Celtics at arms distance and giving him his 16th point. His 17th point comes as he wins the blocking call at half court against Pierce, he goes to the line and hits 1 of 2. Lakers lead 74-68 with 2:20 left in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.
A couple of possessions later, it’s a 4 point game as Pierce attacks the rim. He drives into the paint with Artest and Gasol on either side of him. as he goes up to finish the layup, Gasol reaches an arm out towards the ball, blocking the attempt from behind. Pierce tries to keep the ball inbound and throws it towards Wallace stood in the left corner, he tries to save it but ultimately goes out of bounds himself. Mike Breen exclaims “Laker ball with 1:46 remaining!”.
Gasol then gets his final bucket. A big-time play. The Lakers once again isolate him in the left high post. Receiving the ball from Lamar Odom he turns to face Wallace, takes two jab steps with his left then attacks to the right. Backing down Wallace, he gets himself closer to the rim. He then spins to his right, pump fakes and finishes over Wallace, Pierce, and Garnett. Just as the game clock hits 1:30. The Lakers lead by 6.
Gasol’s final big-time play comes with about 30 seconds left as the Celtics have cut the lead to 3. Bryant rises for a contested 3 and misses, Gasol flies in and grabs the rebound. He turns and kicks it back out to Bryant who is stood in the mid-range, Bryant immediately attacks the rim and bags himself 2 free throws.
Bryant hits both, putting the Lakers up by 5. Rondo then hits a 3, cutting the lead back down to 2. The game clock now at 13 seconds and the Celtics need to foul. That they do, specifically Sasha Vujacic who will go to the line to shoot 2, he had played 5 minutes in the game to that point. He hits them both, putting the Lakers up by 4, making it a 2 possession game.
The Celtics have 11.7 seconds left. They end up getting Rondo a contested 3 point shot from the left corner, he misses badly as it grazes the front of the rim. Gasol secures his 18th (and final) rebound with 5 seconds left in the game. He kicks it out to Odom who throws it down the floor, creating the now-iconic image of Bryant chasing it down. The buzzer sounds, crowning the Los Angeles Lakers as World Champions once again!
Pau Gasol was traded to Los Angeles in the middle of the 2007-08 season, to pair with Bryant in an attempt to make the Lakers a contender again. That he did.
As a Laker, he went on to earn 3 All-NBA selections, 3 All-Star selections, and became a 2 time NBA Champion. Adopted by Laker Nation as one of their own, he well and truly deserves his place on this list as a great!
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