Pau Gasol pledge drive a winner for Lakers
A star who had been missing far too long for the Lakers’ liking made his return Friday night at Staples Center.
You know, Pau Gasol.
OK, so the center technically hasn’t sat out a game this season, unlike more celebrated teammates Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
He had been a nonentity for some time, though, making his re-emergence during the Lakers’ 102-95 victory over the Golden State Warriors a feel-good story on two fronts.
Gasol helped the Lakers and the citizens of the Philippines, his 24 points and 10 rebounds triggering a $24,000 donation to a UNICEF fund established to assist victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Gasol had pledged to give $1,000 for each point he scored against the Warriors.
“I definitely had that motivation of scoring points tonight,” said Gasol, who made 11 of 19 shots. “Once I started knocking down those outside shots, it opened things up for me because then I could attack off the dribble.”
Former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson also will be sending $1,700 after tweeting he would contribute $50 per point, $50 per rebound and $1,000 per charge taken by Gasol. Unfortunately for Gasol, he couldn’t collect in the final category.
“Charges are not my thing,” said Gasol, who sidestepped an opportunity in the first half. “Phil knows that.”
The Lakers’ duo of Nick Young and Jordan Farmar, onetime club teammates known as peanut butter and jelly, came off the bench strong. Young matched his season high with 21 points and Farmar had 14 points and eight assists.
Young dunked an alley-oop pass from Farmar and later capped the Lakers’ 12-0 run to end the third quarter by spinning away from Marreese Speights and then making a three-pointer.
“My first love is being a dancer,” Young joked, “so it just came out of me today.”
Gasol had disappeared for much of the season’s early going, struggling with his shooting and averaging a thoroughly uninspiring 11.6 points in the eight games preceding his effort against the Warriors.
But he was largely unstoppable in the first half, scoring 16 points while making eight of 12 shots. He made a jump hook, a handful of jumpers and spun around Andrew Bogut for a layup, none of which qualified as his early highlight.
That came late in the second quarter when he executed a behind-the-back dribble in transition and eventually found Steve Blake in the corner for a three-pointer that gave the Lakers their 55-46 halftime lead.
The Lakers’ showing was a complete reversal from the last time these teams met, a 31-point Warriors victory during their season opener, in which Klay Thompson had a career-high 38 points.
Thompson couldn’t match that output, scoring a relatively quiet 19 points while making only six of 20 shots. His performance was emblematic of a team that shot 41.5% and scored 30 fewer points than it did in the teams’ last encounter. The Lakers had more three-pointers than the Warriors this time (11 to nine).
The Lakers were hosting the Warriors for the first time since Bryant sustained a torn Achilles’ tendon here against them in April. He has resumed practicing but experienced what Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni called “general soreness” and is not expected to play Sunday against Sacramento.
Golden State also played short-handed. Sharpshooter Stephen Curry sat out his second consecutive game with a concussion and the Warriors were further depleted when his replacement at point guard, Andre Iguodala, limped to the locker room in the third quarter with a strained left hamstring and did not return.
Gasol stuck around for the Lakers (6-7), giving them a two-game winning streak for the first time this season. They’ll need more nights like these from their center to keep it going.
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