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Missing Persons Alert: Pau Gasol

ALERT! Have you seen this man?

Missing: NBA Champion, 7-footer Pau Gasol of Spain.  Last seen at the TD Garden in Boston, MA.  Anyone with information please contact the Los Angeles Lakers at:

Staples Center
1111 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90015

Dramatic?  A little, sure, but after consecutive losses to the Celtics in Boston the question has got to be asked … where did Pau Gasol go?

After dominating the post in the first two games, Gasol went back to his 2008 form and was pushed around and bullied by the Celtics in the middle three games.  Just take a look at the numbers:

Games 1-2: 15-24 shooting, 18-23 ft’s, 22 rebounds, 9 blocks, 48 points
Games 3-5: 16-36 shooting, 14-19 ft’s, 28 rebounds, 4 blocks, 46 points

While Gasol’s numbers for the middle three games don’t look all that bad, they are a bit inflated.  In Game 4, Gasol had 21 points thanks to 9-10 free throw shooting.  In Game 5, Gasol finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, but three of those points and three of those rebounds came in what amounted to garbage time in the last 45 seconds.

So what exactly has gone wrong with the Spaniard?  Well for one, his newfound toughness that was on full display in Games 1-2 completely disappeared as soon as the Lakers landed in Boston.  Gasol was physically dominated by Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins in the middle three games, something Lakers fans remember all too well from the last time these teams met in the Finals.

But Gasol’s issues on the court are not all his fault.  The Lakers perimeter players have had quick triggers the past two games, not posting up Gasol as often as they should, and at times taking him completely out of the game.  The biggest offenders of this are Ron Artest and Jordan Farmar, two guys that jack up threes with no hesitation instead of posting up Gasol inside.

So how exactly does Pau fix these problems before the Lakers get KO’ed by Boston?  First, he has to be just as physical with Garnett and Perkins as they are with him.  Despite the fact that Gasol’s 15-17 foot jumper is money when he’s open, he can’t keep bailing his defender out by settling for it.  Pau has to attack Perkins and Garnett by facing up and driving at them.  Perkins is a foul-prone big who is physical inside, but slow on his feet.  Gasol must take advantage of the fact that he has the best footwork in the post of any big man in the NBA and use that to abuse Perkins.

When the ball stops coming inside, Gasol has to demand it.  Shrugging his shoulders in frustration when a bad shot goes up is not going to get you the ball in the post more.  Pau has got to be a vocal leader who demands the ball in the post, and delivers once he gets it.  The key to winning these final two games in LA is winning the battle inside.  Gasol has to dominate the paint and the boards for the Lakers to have a chance.

But what’s the most important thing for Gasol to do?  Man the hell up.  Period.  No more complaining to the refs, no more looking for foul calls that aren’t coming your way, just man up and go to work inside.  For two years Gasol has been called soft, blamed for the Lakers loss in 2008, and labeled as a player who backs down when he gets pushed around.

If Gasol wants to dispel those notions and cement himself as the best big man in the game, he needs to do it in Game 6, then again in Game 7.  It’s time for Pau to reaffirm his star status, to show everyone that not only is he tough enough, but he’s good enough to adjust to any type of play inside.  It’s time to prove once and for all that that the 7-footer with fancy footwork who can finish with either hand inside is not only the best big on the defending NBA champions, but the best big in the league.

It’s time for some Boom Boom Pau, otherwise the Lakers will have to spend another summer wondering what happened against the Celtics.

Belal Abdelfattah is BSO’s newest writer and comes from a long background in sports writing at the Sports Authority Blog and The Block Radio. You can follow Belal on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/belal_a