BOSTON - Pau Gasol wants the ball.
That's no surprise. All big guys think their team should throw it into the post more often.
But perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers should make sure he gets those touches, and while they're at it give a few more to Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, too.
The Lakers had stretches of good ball movement Tuesday night in Game 3 of the NBA finals, but also one quarter where the ball kept getting stuck and forced Kobe Bryant to hoist up too many shots.
Los Angeles rediscovered its offensive flow in time to hold on for a 91-84 victory, but knows it must keep the ball moving against the Celtics on Thursday in Game 4.
"Sometimes we get a little stagnant and we don't form our offence," Odom said Wednesday.
That might be the only reason Game 3 ever got close. The Lakers opened a 17-point lead in the second quarter by getting everyone involved, with Bryant contributing little scoring to the flurry that gave them that big cushion.
Then the Lakers stopped throwing it inside, and suddenly their big lead was gone almost as quickly as it was built.
Gasol has made the same complaint before, but it's obvious why he wants the ball now. He and Bynum outplayed their Celtics' counterparts in the first two games, but never really found steady work in Game 3, with Gasol taking only 11 shots.
"Sometimes we do get away from getting the ball in the post and attacking the team from there," Gasol said. "Sometimes we do, we tend to do that pretty often. Sometimes it's good, some times, most times, I don't think it helps a lot, especially when we have been as effective and both of our bigs, shooting over 57 per cent in the whole playoffs. So you've got to make a conscious effort on getting the ball in there."
Gasol is not just some disgruntled big man who sulks without shots. He's an excellent passer for a big man who has been a natural fit in the triangle offence almost from the time the Lakers acquired him from Memphis during the 2007-08 season.
"It doesn't have to be a scoring opportunity," he said. "But it (causes) also the defence to collapse and creates open shots for guys outside, and something that we try to go to and talk about a lot before the games but doesn't always work out that way."
Bryant contributed just two points to a 10-1 run that ended the first quarter, then had only a three-point play during an 11-3 spurt early in the second that gave Los Angeles a 37-20 lead.
Odom thinks that's the way the Lakers always can play.
"Any time we form a triangle we play out of it, and we have so many players on our team that are good at the fundamentals of basketball. That's pass, dribble, shoot. Pass, dribble, shoot," Odom said. "Guys on the court, everybody can make a play, from the centre position to the point guard position and sometimes when we get out of that, we kind of let teams off the hook."
That's exactly what happened in the third quarter and early in the fourth. Bryant took 10 of the Lakers' 17 shots in the third, many of them tough jumpers, and they scored only 15 points. He credited the Celtics' defence for getting "stickier" as the game went on, but said the Lakers must improve the way they handle it.
"Their defence picked up and forced us into those situations, so we had to do a better job," he said. "We'll look at it today, see things we can adjust and do better."
Lakers know they need better ball movement in Game 4 of the NBA finals
BOSTON - Pau Gasol wants the ball.