The Lakers are Kobe Bryant’s team, but tonight this was Pau Gasol’s game. His 33 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks led the Lakers to a 111-96 win over the Jazz and a sweep of their Western Conference semifinal series.
But the statistics don’t tell the whole story. Gasol dominated the paint, not only scoring, grabbing rebounds, and blocking shots, but cutting off Jazz penetration and turning away drives with those long arms of his.
However, the offensive end was where Gasol really showed off his athleticism, attacking the basket with sweeping hooks, driving under the basket, and passing to the open man or spinning outside for a jump shot. The Jazz had absolutely no answer for Gasol.
As for Bryant, he had 32 points and four assists. Phil Jackson called his game, “persistent and aggressive.” Bryant scored over 30 points in all four games against the Jazz.
Reggie Miller and the rest of the TNT crew covering the game commented that Andrew Bynum had better step up his game in the next series or the Lakers will not win.
It was the second consecutive game where Bynum did not make much of a difference. He had only six points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. But the tear in his meniscus will affect a 7'1", 300-pound center much more than a smaller player.
So, this was a must-win game for the Lakers even though it was the Jazz who were facing elimination. It became a must-win game last night when the Phoenix Suns swept their semifinals series with the San Antonio Spurs.
The Lakers needed to win this game tonight and sweep the series so they could have the entire week to rest as the Suns have. There is not only Bynum’s knee, but Bryant’s finger, knee, and ankle, Shannon Brown’s thumb, Lamar Odom’s shoulder, and Sasha Vujacic’s ankle.
Hopefully, the Lakers will be back at full strength when their Western Conference finals series with the Phoenix Suns begins next Monday evening at the Staples Center. I will have more on this sensational matchup later in the week.