With the injury to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers looked doomed in the postseason. Their award for a 99-95 overtime win over the Houston Rockets is the San Antonio Spurs in the first round rather than the Oklahoma City Thunder. Congratulations, Los Angeles!
In all seriousness, the win over the Rockets highlighted what is the best aspect of the Lakers: post play. Gasol had 20 rebounds, 17 points and 11 assists. Howard had 18 rebounds and 16 points of his own.
With Bryant out, the other Lakers stars needed to step up, and that's exactly what they did against Houston. No one could have predicted that Steve Blake would score 24 points, so it's a bit unreasonable to expect that from him in the playoffs.
For Howard and Gasol, on the the other hand, this is the perfect opportunity to make up for what have been disappointing seasons.
The trade rumors regarding Gasol seemingly never ended, and it looked all but a certainty that he would be on his way out. Although health has been an issue, he simply hasn't been the player he was over the last few seasons. That's due in part to Howard, but Gasol wasn't helping himself either.
With Howard, there was the offseason back surgery that affected his game early in the season. Then came the shoulder injury that Bryant almost demanded Howard play through. Although he's still leading the league in rebounding, Howard's numbers have also taken a dip this season.
It felt like everyone but Mike D'Antoni could see that, utilized correctly, Howard and Gasol could be a great tandem in the post. Howard is the more classic big man who does almost all of his work in the paint. Gasol is the modern big man who can pass and shoot from mid-range.
If properly used, there isn't a team in the NBA who can match the Lakers in the post. Granted, the backcourt is an issue, but that may not be as big of a problem against San Antonio.
With as banged up as the Spurs' backcourt is, they'll be leaning on Tim Duncan a lot. With Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili both dealing with injuries, there isn't a distinct advantage at the guard positions for San Antonio. Therefore, taking him out of the game, even partially, would be huge for the Lakers.
San Antonio is not a good rebounding team. The Spurs only rank tied for 20th in rebounds per game. The Lakers are fourth, and that's in large part to Gasol and Howard combining for 20.6 a game. That area is there for Los Angeles to exploit.
It's going to be a tough road for the Lakers to get through to the next round. They'll need to ride on the backs of Gasol and Howard to get there.
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