Gasol shows he’s a tough guy
What now, Pau?
When Andrew Bynum went down because of a torn ligament in his right knee, all eyes turned to Pau Gasol, with reason.
The only other big man with a polished post game, Gasol needed to live up to his recent selection on the All-Star team.
So far, he has . . . and then some.
Gasol had 24 points on pristine 10-for-14 shooting Thursday against the Boston Celtics, helping the Lakers pound out a 110-109 overtime victory.
He also had 14 rebounds, seven on the offensive end.
“He was huge. He played strong, he played physical,” Kobe Bryant said. “When you’ve got a team that’s making it an issue to be physical with you, you’ve got to get physical right back.”
Gasol and the rest of the Lakers weren’t very tough last June, losing to the Celtics in six games in the NBA Finals, including an 0-3 mark at TD Banknorth Garden.
But Thursday was different.
Gasol scored five of the Lakers’ nine points in overtime, helping them ease the stranglehold the Celtics enjoyed here last season.
“Psychologically, mentally, it’s really important for us to come in this building and just play the way we played and battle the way we battled,” Gasol said. “I wish we would have come here last year with this kind of attitude.”
Gasol has easily filled the void left behind by Bynum, averaging 28.7 points and 14.3 rebounds in three games.
“I’m feeling confident, aggressive,” Gasol said. “I know I had to step it up when Andrew went down . . . and I’m trying to do that.”
The Lakers made things difficult by making only 17 of 29 free-throw attempts (58.6%) against Boston, but it didn’t deter Lamar Odom.
With the Lakers trailing, 109-108, Odom was fouled grabbing a rebound off a blocked shot and trying to throw it downcourt to Gasol with 16 seconds left in overtime. He was only five for nine from the line at that point.
His first free throw went through cleanly. The second one rattled around briefly before rolling through the hoop.
Foul or not?
Celtics guard Ray Allen said he was fouled by Derek Fisher on the last play of overtime, but Fisher didn’t see it that way.
“How much contact did I make?” Fisher said. “I don’t think I made any contact with him.”
With three seconds left, Allen inbounded the ball from the side to Boston forward Glen Davis, who handed it quickly back to Allen. Fisher was there stride for stride, then was joined by Gasol for help, and Allen shot an airball as he fell down.
Boston Coach Doc Rivers said it was an illegal “hand check,” and Allen said, “I thought I was pushed, I almost twisted.”
Fisher said he predicted which play was coming.
“I knew that if [Allen] was taking the ball out, I knew that it was coming back to him,” Fisher said. “Any basketball person in the world would know that you’re not going to need a shot at the end of the game and have Ray Allen take it out and then just watch from there. So I told Pau that the hand-off was coming.
“As [Allen] went up, I contested it, and Pau, really, it was his left [hand] that really made it difficult for him to get a good look at the basket.”