Lakers’ Pau Gasol steps up three-point game Wednesday night


DENVER — Hey, if you can’t beat the system, join it.

Pau Gasol hasn’t exactly been the perfect fit for Mike D’Antoni’s push-the-pace offense, continually finding himself away from the basket.

So he’s shooting more often from three-point range, and succeeding.

He made two three-point shots in the first half of the Lakers’ 126-114 loss Wednesday to the Denver Nuggets. He missed one in the third quarter.


Before Wednesday, he had taken 11 three-point shots this season and only 49 total since the Lakers acquired him in February 2008.

“It’s a shot that I can take a couple times a game,” Gasol said. “Some nights, some are going to go in. It’s a lower-percentage shot, but tonight a couple went in. That was good.”

Buyer beware: Gasol was a 23.6% three-point shooter before Wednesday’s game.

His long-distance display was curbed when Dwight Howard was ejected for a flagrant foul with 5:02 left in the third quarter.

So Gasol moved down low, if only temporarily.

“When Dwight is out of the game, I try to get more of an inside position,” he said.

Gasol looked pretty good down there. He finished with 19 points, his second-highest output this season, and made seven of 11 shots.

Nash playing time

Kobe Bryant isn’t the only Laker whose minutes will be monitored by fans, reporters and many others in between.

Steve Nash played 41 minutes last week in his first game back from a leg injury and then followed it up with 38.

The 17-year veteran played a rather light 31 minutes against Denver.

“He’s only 38, come on,” D’Antoni said jokingly before the game.

D’Antoni wanted to keep Nash in the 34-minute range most games this season. He has reasons for playing Nash longer if necessary.

“I’m pretty liberal about giving him a day off and don’t ‘practice’ him,” D’Antoni said. “Is it better to go ahead and practice for an hour and a half or give him three [more] minutes on the floor?

“I think it’s more important that he plays, but we will watch it, and hopefully as [Steve] Blake comes back and we get a little bit more comfortable where we are, then I can cut him down a little bit more.

Blake will be back in two to three weeks after having undergone abdominal surgery this month, D’Antoni said.

D’Antoni wasn’t done analyzing Nash’s game.

“He hasn’t really slowed down. He’s gotten better defensively. I think he’s even a better player now than he was in Phoenix to a certain degree,” he said.

Better now at age 38? Hmmmm.

And what about this defensive improvement?

D’Antoni said he liked how Nash was “hounding people and getting through picks.”

“He said he’s worked on his leg strength the last couple years to try to get better at it. And he has.”