Time for big men to step up to plate

Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- They had fed off each other since the Trade That Changed Everything, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol hungrily snapping up each other's passes and missed shots, practically completing each other's sentences as the Lakers rolled to a 32-8 record with Gasol in their lineup.

Then came Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, and Odom and Gasol were left without any sustenance.

They missed 20 of 29 shots, many from close range, and were privately singled out by Coach Phil Jackson for not being aggressive enough.

Odom had seven points, Gasol had only five rebounds, the Lakers were throttled by San Antonio and their lead was sliced to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Game 4 is tonight in San Antonio, and the Lakers seemed quietly confident as they appeared for practice Monday, though there was definitely an interest in what Odom and Gasol had to say.

Odom already had some ideas on how to improve his Game 3 performance.

"Dunk the basketball," he said. "Attack the rim a little harder. Finish at the free-throw line."

He had five turnovers, missed nine of 11 shots and made only three of eight free throws in one of his worst outings of the season. He took the blame for the loss after the game, and was still unhappy about it Monday morning.

"I got to the point where I couldn't make a shot and then I got to the free-throw line and wouldn't make a free throw," he said. "That can't happen."

Odom's struggles were magnified because Gasol made only seven of 18 shots on the way to 15 points. Gasol and Odom each missed four layups and were outrebounded by Tim Duncan, 21-16.

"Usually we're both sharp," Gasol said. "Or one's sharp and the other might not have the best night. But [Sunday] night, I don't think offensively we were where we needed to be and we didn't finish as we usually finish."

Jackson spoke to Gasol and Odom after the game. He thought they needed to attack the basket with more ferocity. A follow-up conversation apparently wasn't needed Monday.

"I said what I wanted to say to them [Sunday] night," Jackson said.

Which was?

"Can't remember," he said coyly.

Meanwhile, the Spurs looked more like defending champions, with Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker outscoring Odom, Gasol and Kobe Bryant in Game 3, 72-52.

The Spurs are 7-0 at home in the playoffs. Duncan has 55 rebounds in this series; Gasol and Odom have a combined 56.

The Spurs have also been here before, having lost the first two games in New Orleans before coming back to win in seven in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Lakers still control home court, but, well, they obviously weren't the better team in Game 3. They'll have a chance to put a strong sense of distance between themselves and the Spurs tonight.

"We want to come right back and show them that we're a young team, but just because you beat us by 20, that's not going to affect the next game," Bryant said. "We'll come out here and bring it to you. I think that's the message that we have to send to them, is show them that we're worthy of taking that crown."


Odom and Gasol weren't the only starters off the mark.

Derek Fisher had two points on one-for-four shooting.

"Just didn't get enough shots for him," Jackson said. "Four shots in a situation where he plays 29 minutes and only has one that he makes. We'd rather get six, eight shots for him in that kind of minutes."


After averaging 15.8 free throws a game in the Utah series, Bryant is averaging only two a game against San Antonio, bottoming out in Game 3 with one missed attempt.

He acknowledged he needed to get to the line more often but didn't know if it would happen because "they're not going to put me there."

"They're just not going to foul me," he said. "That's their philosophy, that's what they do. They would rather give me an open layup than foul me and put me at the free-throw line."



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