The injuries piled up all season long for Pau Gasol, and the way it affected his play appeared as wide-ranging as the injuries itself.
An offseason procedure to reduce tendinosis in both of his knees hurt Gasol’s conditioning. An upper respiratory infection affected Gasol’s breathing enough for him to sit out for three games last month, an issue that drew plenty of criticism for not toughing it out. But with an MRI showing he nursed a moderately strained big toe in his left foot, Gasol still suited up to play in the Lakers’ 120-118 loss Tuesday to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center.
“It’s sore,” said Gasol after posting 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 12 rebounds. “But I want to be out there for my guys. I feel like I did okay.”
Yes, Gasol looked amazing on his offense. He made sweeping drives to the basket despite feeling pain in his foot anytime he elevated. He looked the same way with his mid-range jumpers. But that effectiveness hardly translated on the defensive end, where the Cavaliers posted 46 points in the paint and lost, 16-6, on the offensive glass.
“The defense needs to improve drastically,” Gasol said. “It’s all about hustle and activity, scrambling and then putting bodies on people. Whatever it takes to secure those boards to get extra possessions, easier points and looks, we need to make a conscious effort to do that and cover for each other.”
Still, the Lakers appreciated that Gasol appeared willing to suit up. After all, the Lakers already have five points guards unable to do so.
“I thought he wasn’t going to play,” Lakers forward Nick Young said. “But he came out with energy and was hyping us up. That was big and shows a lot that he’s still fighting for us. That’s all we need, everybody fighting for each other.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org