Pau Gasol made his return to the Lakers starting lineup after missing time since December 2nd, having to tend to tendinitis in both of his knees. How did his night play out? 10 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks as the Lakers fought back from an 18 point deficit and defeated the Charlotte Bobcats. But, again, how did he look? In part one of our Pau Gasol breakdown from Tuesday's victory over the Bobcats we'll be taking a look at the work Gasol did in the Lakers' half court sets. With many questioning how Gasol can fit into Mike D'Antoni's "system", Pau will need to acclimate himself to playing in the system quickly as the Lakers need their talented big man to help steady the choppy waters they've been riding to start the season.
Half Court Sets
Pau Gasol had an extremely active 1st quarter, and right from the tip off the Lakers looked to involve the Spaniard. As we break down this game, you'll notice that almost at all times the Lakers have the corners loaded and the key empty as they set high screens.
As Duhon turns the screen, Dwight immediately dives into the paint with nothing to inhibit him. Meanwhile, Pau sets a secondary screen, forcing Byron Mullens to pick up Duhon.
Pau rolls to the top of the key as Dwight has his man sealed in the paint. At this point he has three options: take the mid-range jumper himself, hit Dwight in the paint, or hit Kobe on the perimeter. Note that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is sneaking in to help on Howard.
Pau chooses to pass it to Howard who is immediately fouled. Again, Kidd-Gilchrist cheats to help on Dwight and completely ignores his man, Devin Ebanks, in the corner. Simply having Kobe camp in the perimeter lets Dwight maintain his inside seal without having to worry about being stripped.
Dwight rolls, but this time he has Mullens directly in front of him, and Kidd-Gilchrist has cheated all the way directly under the rim to stop Dwight. Kobe stands and watches on the wing again. With Mullens picking up a rolling Dwight, Gasol is left completely alone.
Duhon sends it to Gasol, who isn't in an individually ideal position. Just inside the arch is a bit out of his range, but Biyombo and Gilchrist are both focused on Howard. Ebanks is beyond open, with a great deal of space between his man.
Gasol immediately passes it over to Ebanks who drains a wide open two.
The next play starts a bit awkwardly for the Lakers, as all 5 players are on the perimeter while Duhon "creates". Yes, Duhon, creates.
The ball is eventually moved to Pau, who is now on the wing with Kobe Bryant. The two instantly take to their patented two man game.
Pau hands it off as Bryant closes in, and sets a screen. Of note, while editing these clips take a look at Chris Duhon. He's standing feet behind the three point arch. So far, in fact, that Kemba begins to cheat his way towards Kobe.
3 of the 5 Bobcats on the floor give Kobe their attention as Pau rolls to the rim with nothing to slow him down. Again, Duhon standing FEET away from the 3 point line, which allows Kemba to help the Bobcats contain Bryant. Kobe has the option to hit Duhon, but wants to get the ball to Pau.
Bryant hits Gasol with a beautiful bounce pass to put him in scoring position. Notice, Duhon STILL standing in no man's land. Also, Ebanks cuts to the rim, causing unnecessary traffic around the rim.
Gasol misses the layup, but Howard is there to clean it up and picks up a foul in the process. "The Gasol Assist"
This next play isn't anything fancy, but shows how important having Pau to facilitate when he's playing decisive is a huge gain for the Lakers. The Lakers are loaded up on one side with Ebanks also cutting to the corner, giving Dwight what should be an isolation in the post. However, with Gerald Henderson in the area, Kidd-Gilchrist decides to stay back in the paint to help with Howard. Duhon is standing around the 27 foot range, again, so Kemba cheats off of him and is a threat in stripping the turnover prone center. He now has three Bobcats' attention when he should be looking to isolate. Howard kicks it out to Gasol who is outside of his shooting range.
Kidd-Gilchrist stays with Biyombo to help and Howard is now double teamed without the ball. Gasol has options. Duhon is there... deep and unset as usual. Ebanks is covered by Henderson. This leaves Byron Mullens to cover both Gasol and Bryant, and Henderson with a great deal of distance from Kobe.
Gasol hits Kobe with a quick touch pass, having already decided he was kicking it to Kobe before Dwight passed it out to him. Bryant drains the three despite Henderson doing a pretty good job contesting the shot.
Another high screen set for the Lakers, but this time between Kobe and Pau. Corners loaded as usual, and Chris Duhon standing 30 feet back, as usual.
Kobe passes it to Pau off the screen. Notice that four Bobcats players are bunched together, leaving one 'Cat to cover a great deal of space.
Pau swings it to Duhon, who immediately passes it to a wide open Metta World Peace.
Metta misses the three, but with the Bobcats defense being off balance, Pau gets to the rim, picks up an offensive rebound, and gets a pair of free throws as a reward.
More two-man goodness from Pau and Kobe stemming from a high screen. (Notice how many good things happen when the Lakers run high screens?) As usual, the Bobcats cheat off of Ebanks along the perimeter, making this a 3 on 2 play. Note: Metta has his man sealed in the paint.
Pau rolls right by Byron Mullens and grabs a very tricky bounce pass from Kobe. Nothing but air between Gasol and the rim, with Metta still having his man locked down. Meeks keeps the floor spaced enough to create the gap for Pau, and Ebanks is alone in the corner.
Nothing to it but to do it, an easy two points for Gasol.
The next play is a testament to how great the court vision of Pau Gasol is, even if he's sitting at the top of the arch. Also, a great 1-2 off ball screen, which is something the Lakers tinkered with when Sessions was first brought on board last season.
Kobe sets an off ball screen for Morris, while Pau pulls Biyombo out of the paint and onto the perimeter. Metta and Meeks also pull their defenders out of the paint. The result is a wide open key that Morris attacks off the screen.
Morris breaks free and has nothing but the rim to stop him (notice a trend here with some of the plays they're running?). Pau hits him with a great pass that only a handful of big men could make. Kobe sets a very good screen that sets Ramon Sessions back just enough. Morris misses the initial layup after bobbling the pass, but he recovers and scores.
Another 5 out set here for the Lakers, and again with Pau initiating at the top of the arch, clearing out the key. How are those knees doing, Pau?
Kobe sets a screen for Pau and the corners stay loaded to keep the paint clear.
Pau puts it on the floor takes the screen with one man to beat- Byron Mullens.
The result? Two more points for Pau.
The final play of part 1 of our breakdown, and another look at his supreme gift of passing. The play begins with Metta World Peace dumping the ball to Pau in the post.
After passing it in to Pau Metta cuts to the basket and receives a great touch pass from Pau. Meeks is also cutting, but down to the corner, which causes his man to be non-committal on where to defend.
With a perfectly placed pass, Metta sails in for an easy layup.
Pau had a solid night in the 29 minutes that Mike D'Antoni played him. From facilitating, to scoring, to simply making good basketball plays, Pau Gasol's skill-set was on full display. He missed a handful of jumpers but the rhythm will come for him. Having been out since December 2nd he looked better (in that he was moving without laboring) than just about any point this season and the time away clearly helped him move around the court like the fluid big man we've come to know. Stay tuned for part 2 of the breakdown tomorrow which will take a look at what Pau did in transition and on the defensive side of the ball (hint: those knees are definitely back for Pau). So, tell me, does this look like a relationship that simply can't work out on the offensive side of the ball? Till tomorrow...
- Follow this author on Twitter @BallReasons