Pau Gasol had points to make
DALLAS — Pau Gasol didn’t play in the fourth quarter again. Then Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni called him into a small room in the visitors’ locker room.
Two minutes passed. Three. Then four.
Finally Gasol emerged. He was trying not to smile.
“He liked the way I bounced back, the way I reacted to [Friday] night’s game,” Gasol said.
Gasol looked more like himself Saturday and was held out of the fourth quarter as a reward, not a punishment, while the Lakers crushed the Dallas Mavericks, 115-89, at American Airlines Center.
For a change, they revolved breezily around their axis after a series of poor road efforts, including a ripped-at-the-seams loss the previous night in Memphis in which Gasol was benched for the final quarter.
He had 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes against Dallas, numbers that weren’t celebrated by the four-time All-Star, though they looked a lot better than his six-point, four-rebound throw-away in Memphis.
Kobe Bryant and the rejuvenated Metta World Peace each had 19 points as the Lakers avoided an 0-5 road record for the first time since 1993.
The Lakers led by 24 going into the fourth quarter. Bryant also skipped the last 12 minutes.
With the arena more than half empty in the final seconds, a “Let’s go Lakers” chant evolved as Mavericks owner Mark Cuban watched unhappily, arms folded across his chest.
He can’t win them all, especially after the Mavericks upset the Lakers on opening night.
A lot has changed for the Lakers. Most recently, their reserves have become a factor. Antawn Jamison had 19 points and 15 rebounds, two solid games in a row after a dozen of almost nothing. Jodie Meeks added 11 points.
Like Gasol, Dwight Howard emerged from a quiet two-game droop with 15 points, seven rebounds and five steals as the Lakers took the points-in-the-paint category that eluded them recently, 50-36.
All Lakers followers shifted toward Gasol, however, especially after D'Antoni criticized him Friday. They actually talked earlier Saturday.
“He got some oatmeal this morning and I said, ‘Nice choice,’” D'Antoni said.
It was a start, anyway, something akin to breaking bread.
“Pau’s a great guy. I wasn’t trying to disrespect him,” D'Antoni said before Saturday’s game. “Pau’s a great player and he always will be a great player, so we’ll keep tinkering and working.
“We’ve got to figure out how to get him more involved. Not just him, how to get Dwight more involved. We can’t have our big guys just shooting four, five or six times.”
Still, D'Antoni stood by his offensive principles of the last decade, saying he didn’t plan on tweaking it much to aid the Lakers’ big men.
“I still think the system that we run will be even more beneficial to them whether they’re back to the basket or not,” he said. “I just don’t like the traditional ‘I’m going to run down and I’m going to post up and we’re going to beat each other half to death.’
“We’re going to move the ball. We’re going to pick and roll … and the ball should find energy, and a lot of that energy the bigs are going to supply.”
Gasol was very active in the first quarter. He drilled a mid-range jumper, scored down low and hit a running left-handed hook shot over Chris Kaman.
He also had a revelation after the game. He has been battling knee tendinitis for over a month.
“It’s something that has been lingering since this preseason. I’ve been dealing with it the best I can,” he said.
The Lakers even played defense Saturday, holding Dallas to 37% shooting. Vince Carter had 16 points for the Mavericks, still going without Dirk Nowitzki (knee surgery).
The Lakers (7-7) moved back to .500 in their early-season battle. Gasol played well.
All was right in their sphere of influence. For now.
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