Lakers' Pau Gasol recovers after slow start to first-round playoff series

Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum walked off the court together, dwarfing a narrow hallway as they headed toward the Lakers' locker room.

Their first-round playoff series was over. The Lakers had eliminated New Orleans.

Before they disappeared into a brief postgame meeting, Gasol reached out and rubbed Bynum's head.

If Gasol wasn't giddy, he was close to it, overcoming a wobbly first two games to post better numbers the rest of the series.

His averages in Games 1 and 2 against the Hornets: eight points, 5.5 rebounds.

His averages the last four games: 16.3 points, 7.5 rebounds.

"Not great, obviously, but I'm happy that I was able to bounce back after a slow start," Gasol said. "I think my energy and my contribution was a lot better, as it was supposed to be."

Gasol is still below the 18.8 points and 10.2 rebounds he averaged in the regular season. He'll need to get closer to that in the Western Conference semifinals, matched up against Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki.

There's hope of a return to normalcy. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson saw a little something extra from Gasol in Game 6.

"Just the way he was running and the way he's carrying himself," Jackson said. "You can see the determination that he showed, and I think that was a big difference."

Gasol had 16 points and eight rebounds Thursday in the Lakers' 98-80 victory.

Those first two games? Gasol's teammates have already forgiven him.

"Even Michael Jordan had bad games in the playoffs," forward Ron Artest said.

Last call

Lakers TV broadcaster Joel Meyers called his final game for the team Thursday in New Orleans. He will be replaced next season by Lakers radio announcer Spero Dedes.

Meyers announced games for Lakers broadcast partners FS West and KCAL, neither of which broadcast playoff games after the first round.

Meyers was the voice of the Lakers for six seasons. Before that, he was the Lakers' play-by-play announcer for radio. He declined to comment Thursday.

Caracter apologizes

Rookie forward Derrick Caracter spoke publicly Thursday night for the first time about his arrest after an alleged altercation with a female employee at a New Orleans restaurant early last Sunday.

"I want to apologize to the fans for the distraction and to our organization," Caracter said. "I will do my best to not let it happen again."

Caracter could face multiple charges after he allegedly grabbed and shoved the cashier at an IHOP restaurant not far from the team's hotel on Canal Street, New Orleans authorities said.

He was arrested after he was refused service at the restaurant about 1 a.m. Sunday because he was "obviously drunk, unruly and started harassing the cashier," the New Orleans police department said in a statement earlier this week.

Caracter could face charges of simple battery, public intoxication and resisting arrest.

Naughty, naughty

Kobe Bryant's foul on New Orleans center Emeka Okafor in Game 5 was upgraded to a flagrant foul one a day later by the NBA.

Bryant smacked Okafor across the face and neck with 3:14 left in Tuesday's game at Staples Center but was called for just a foul on the play.

The NBA later ruled it was "unnecessary" contact. Bryant was not hit with the harsher flagrant foul two penalty in which the league would have also deemed the contact "excessive."

Bryant now has one point on the league's postseason flagrant-foul tracker. If he accrues four "points" in the playoffs, he will automatically be suspended for a game. A flagrant foul two is worth two points.

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