I'm sure when everyone sees this title, the name that immediately comes to mind is Kobe Bryant, and while he may be the potential Finals MVP, you essentially know what you are going to get out of him.
His name is Pau Gasol.
Kobe is the best player on the Lakers, no doubt, but if Pau Gasol is ineffective in this years' Finals, then the Lakers can kiss that championship goodbye.
An effective Gasol would open up so many options for the Lakers offensively. In 2008, the Celtics essentially ran a different type of 2-3 zone, that involved everyone covering their man, until Bryant put the ball on the floor, in which case, one, two, or sometimes even three defenders would come and crowd Bryant's kitchen.
Not to mention that he was being covered by James Posey, one of the best defenders in the game at that time, and lost in all this, were Bryant's teammates.
There were a lot of open jumpers, some hits, some misses, but the player who seems to have shrunken his game the most was Gasol.
Gasol was abused by Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett in the post, as he posted lower numbers than during the regular season, posting 14.8 ppg and 10 rpg in the Finals.
Not to mention other players were no shows, like Lamar Odom and Vladimir Radmanovic.
If the Lakers see an effective Gasol, the driving lanes will open for Bryant, Odom, and possibly Brown, since the Celtics won't be able to collapse on them with the comfort of knowing that Gasol will miss his shots.
With Gasol hitting shots, the Celtics will have to play more straight up, traditional defense on them, and that heavily favors the Lakers for two reasons—Bryant is the games best one-on-one player, and the Celtics no longer have a defensive specialist to put on Bryant.
Pierce can't guard him one-on-one effectively, and neither can Ray Allen.
It seems that only Tony Allen can provide some resistance to Bryant one-on-one on the defensive end, but with T. Allen in, they are much more limited on the offensive end.
If they over-help on Bryant, then a shooter will get open, and I'm sure Ron Artest won't choke the way Radmanovic, and Vujacic (save for one game) did.
Gasol can open all these possibilities and more with good, if not spectacular play.
Maybe now he can shed the "soft" tag that's been hanging over him since 2008.
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