First Round Hero Pau Gasol Prefers Facing a Familiar Opponent

May 4, 2010 – 6:00 am by Paul Bessire

Pau Gasol only scored nine points against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of the Lakers’ opening round series. Had he scored seven, we would have been watching Game 7 yesterday instead of Game 1 of the second round in which the Lakers hosted the Jazz. With 0.5 seconds remaining and trailing 94-93, Gasol rebounded Kobe Bryant’s errant shot – Gasol’s 18th rebound of the game – and immediately converted the putback to win the game.

It wasn’t a clinching game, but Game 1 against the Jazz was almost as dramatic. The Lakers led consistently throughout the game – until the Jazz finally took a lead with 7:41 remaining in the game. The teams went back and forth until LA finally put the game away in the last minute. Say what you will about the +/- stat, but it’s compelling here. Kobe, Gasol, Ron Artest, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom were all at least +5 in Game 1. The other five players who played were in the negative – and that includes all the time they each spent on the court with the positive players.

After the game, in their own ways, Kobe, Gasol and Phil Jackson all questioned the bench play. It’s a good question. Winning another championship will be tough with only five good players.

Pau Gasol joined ESPN Radio Los Angeles with Andrew Siciliano and Mychal Thompsonto talk about Game 1 against the Jazz, playing a familiar opponent, the atmosphere in Oklahoma City, Andrew Bynum’s play, and the rest between Games 3 and 4.

On if he thought the Jazz would lead in the fourth quarter of Game 1:

“No. I didn’t think so during the game, but it did. Things happen sometimes that are a little bit out of control. But you got to make up for them and try to win the ball game.”

On facing a familiar opponent in Utah:

“It is a plus that you know your opponent. It gives us confidence to know that we match up well against them. At the same time, at no point do we want to relax and take that anything granted because that would be a mistake and they would take advantage of that. We know what they do and they know what we do. It’s just a matter of who does best at our strengths. It should be good. We got to make sure that we take care of Game 2 and go to Utah with a 2-0 advantage. We don’t even want to think about the 1-1 result.”

On if his international experience prepared him for the atmosphere in Oklahoma City:

“Yeah. A little bit. And I enjoy it too. It’s a great atmosphere to play in. No matter if they are supporting you or supporting the opponent team, it’s just fun for an NBA player to be part of that kind of game with that kind of atmosphere. So I enjoy those games. They are fun and it was just a good experience.”

On Andrew Bynum’s play:

“He looked pretty good actually. I think he was effective for the most part. It didn’t look he was hurting too much. I talked to him and he said he felt better in the second half than the first half. He has a little injury there and he’ll probably have to deal with  that throughout the playoffs.”

And on if three days off between Games 2 and 3 is good or bad:

“I think for out team, it’s always good. It’s always good that we get extra days of rest and we can recover and prepare for Games 3 and 4. It cuts your rhythm a little bit, but at the same time, we have a veteran team and we like to give our legs a little bit of rest.”

Listen to Pau Gasol on ESPN Radio Los Angeles with Andrew Siciliano and Mychal Thompson.

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