Honestly, it’s amazing he has held his tongue this long:
DENVER — He has tried being polite. Tried to hint, to make his point with his play, to let the Lakers coaching staff correct what is so obviously wrong in games like Monday night’s 120-101 loss to the Nuggets in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
But polite isn’t working.
Actually, polite is hurting the team.
And so Pau Gasol finally dropped the nice act after Monday’s unnecessary loss and said what has become clear as the crisp air here in the Rocky Mountains.
“I wish we would take more advantage of our height and the inside game, because it’s pretty effective. It’s unfortunate that we don’t recognize it enough,” the 7-foot Gasol said after making eight of his 11 shots, but watching his teammates jack up a ridiculous 31 shots from behind the 3-point arc.
“I don’t know what to do anymore to be able to get a couple more looks. Like I said, I’ve been pretty effective all season long, and in the playoffs, and I want to continue to be able to help us have a better chance of winning ball games. I think I’ve been doing that. I just haven’t had a chance to do it enough.”
In the four games of this series, Gasol is shooting an efficient 62.5 percent from the field, making 25 of his 40 shots from the field.
And yet in the second half of Monday’s loss, as the Lakers were trying to rally and win a game that could’ve given them a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series, he took just four shots.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson offered little by way of explanation. Asked if there was any reason Gasol didn’t get the ball more, Jackson said: “No. You can ask him when he comes in about it.
“Some of it is ball movement. Some of it is their defense. Some of it is their help defense that’s coming down. Some of it, I’m sure is the amount of touches he’s actually getting in the post.”
In nearly every series they play, the Lakers have a dominant size advantage over their opponent. Gasol stands 7-feet tall, Andrew Bynum is a shade north of that and Lamar Odom is 6-foot-10.
But against these Nuggets, whose tallest starter is the 6-foot-11 Nene, you’d hardly even notice.
Monday night, Gasol and Bynum combined to make 14 of their 18 shots. Denver’s far less talented and polished front court players, Kenyon Martin (5 of 11, 13 points) and Nene (5 of 8, 14 points) took one more shot as the Lakers All-Star power forward and future All-Star center.
What’s most troubling is that exploiting their front court advantage with Gasol and Bynum doesn’t even seem to be a focal point of the game plan.
“Obviously it wasn’t the game plan tonight,” Gasol said with an annoyed shrug. “It should’ve been. It should be in the game plan every night. At least for me. From my perspective. But obviously it wasn’t and we didn’t get the ball down low early on, we settled.”
Earlier in the season, Gasol politely expressed his frustrations at his team’s inexplicable propensity for forgetting it has an immensely talented, skilled offensive-minded low post threat. But he did not want to make it a distraction for his team, because the Lakers were winning so many games.
But after a loss like this, in a series he could’ve dominated, in a season in which he has played so well, Gasol was through being polite.
“It’s frustrating because we lose games,” he said. “I don’t mind when we win, because the bottom line is, I want to win. But I feel like we have an advantage, and I’m effective, we should stay with what works and what’s effective and not get away from it. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
There’s no ego behind his words. If anything, the fact he has held his tongue so long demonstrates just how pure his intentions are.
“I just want to win, that’s the bottom line,” Gasol said. “I just want to help my team be a better team and I think I can do that.”
Reserve guard Shannon Brown couldn’t agree more.
“Sometimes we get away from what we want to do,” Brown said. “It’s just something we’ve got to work out within us. We always talk about it during the game, after the game, in practice, what we’re doing, what we’re in, what we’re running, but when we get out there in the game, sometiems it’s a different look.”
Brown also dismissed the idea that the Lakers problems in this series are being caused by the way the Nuggets are playing defense.
“I promise you, they’re not doing nothing different than no other team has tried to do to us,” Brown said. “Three-quarter fronting or whatever. They want to front? We got counters to that. It’s execution, or the lack thereof.”