Through one series, Pau Gasol's reportedly sub-par performance has earned the four-time NBA All-Star wide-spread rebuke from teammates, pundits, and sports journalists alike. The supposed culprits: effort and tenacity, and possibly an undisclosed injury.
In four regular season games against the New Orleans Hornets that the Los Angeles Lakers swept, Gasol averaged 22.2 points/game shooting 70.5%. This is a nine point difference from the 13.5 points/game Gasol has coughed up over the course of the Lakers' first round series with Hornets that LA closed out in Game 6 last Thursday, taking it 4-2.
But the 13.5 average is misleading, skewed, anchored down by two lifeless efforts put forth in Game 1 and 2, where Gasol could only come up with 16 points collectively, a handful of rebounds and two sub .230 shooting percentages, while his last outings of the series showcased a near return to form for the protean power forward.
In fact, if Game 1 and 2 are set aside, Gasol maintained a mean of 16.3 points/game, which is less than 2 points shy of his overall postseason average of 18.2. His assists are essentially the same. His free throw percentage is up as well as his blocks.
His numbers are down - unquestionably. But they are not in the basement. Gasol's postseason contributions come and go. Eventually, even as soon as the next game, as often is the case, he finds his groove and resumes his otherwise exemplary play.
In the second round, the Lakers face the third seed and surging Dallas Mavericks. They're led by perennial MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki, who was at his best, scoring 33 points and pulling down 11 rebounds, in the Mavericks deciding 103-96 victory over the Portland Blazers.
The task of defending Nowitzki will largely fall on the shoulders of Gasol, and while Gasol is certain to waver up and down, he is sure to come through, like he always does - sooner or later, usually sooner.