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Lakers vs. Celtics Game 5: Pau Gasol Must Stand Tall vs. His Boston Tormentors

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 13, 2010

BOSTON - JUNE 08:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in the second half against the Boston Celtics in Game Three of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 8, 2010 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics play a rugged, physical brand of basketball which is in direct contrast to the more precision-based style the Los Angeles Lakers prefer.

The Celtics have no problem with turning any contest into a battle of brawn, and each member of their team vocally takes pride in afflicting abuse on any opponent—especially the Lakers.

The re-emergence of Andrew Bynum's partially torn meniscus as a problem puts the Lakers in a bad place heading into Game Five of the 2010 NBA Finals because if Bynum is unable to play, someone else will have have to be the physical presence that Bynum represented.

The only problem is Bynum is the only player on the Lakers' roster who seems comfortable standing toe-to-toe with the Celtics' strong-men and Game Four may have been an ominous sign of things to come.

The pain from Bynum's injury limited him to 12 minutes in Game Four and the Celtics immediately took advantage as Glen Davis became an unstoppable force on offense and the boards.

The momentum has swung in the favor of Boston heading into Game Five, and if the Lakers hope to capture the magic from their two victories, Pau Gasol must assume a more visible stance than he did in Game Four.

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Gasol is not a physical type player which is a well known fact around NBA circles and it would be ridiculous to assume he could re-shape his entire game in the space of a few days.

But in order for the Lakers to be successful in the next game and the series, Gasol will have to offer more physical resistance to the Celtics' front line than he did in Game Four.

Gasol is the prototype European player from culture to style and his game is more based on the fundamental and finesse aspects of basketball—something the Celtics have been able to exploit.

Gasol beats opponents with his highly refined skills, intelligence, and footwork but when an opponent attacks him with sheer force Gasol often has trouble responding in a similar manner.

I'm sure Gasol remembers his disappearing act in the Finals of 2008 and, if the memory should escape him, Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, and Kendrick Perkins are there to serve as constant reminders.

Garnett openly questioned Gasol's toughness in 2008 and the 2010 Finals represented a chance for Gasol to eradicate the memory through adding improved toughness and a commitment to his game.

The journey started well over the first three games as Gasol was able to dominate whichever Celtic was guarding him, but that was because Bynum's presence took the pressure off Gasol.

The effort by Boston to keep Bynum out of the paint and off the glass allowed Gasol more room to operate, but now the majority of the Celtics' defensive focus in the paint will be shifted to Gasol.

And the thing is, Gasol doesn't have to change his style of play. 

He just can't allow the Celtics to change it for him.

The fact remains he is still a more talented player than any of the Celtics' post players, including Garnett, but Gasol must conquer the mental demons which have slowly began to re-surface.

Garnett, Davis, and Perkins all believe Gasol will crumble in the face of their physical assault and already there has been whispers from Garnett about his confidence in facing Gasol.

Boston will undoubtedly seek to deliver a significant blow to the Lakers in Game Five and their strategy will revolve around taking Gasol out of the contest by shoving him, pushing him, and stealing his desire.

Gasol knows the spotlight will be focused squarely on him when the teams square off on Sunday and if he has any hopes of vanquishing the ghosts of 2008, then he must push the Celtics back.

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