|Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum ‘can be a dominating couple’||02.10.12 at 3:51 pm ET|
BOSTON — He might look like a llama, but he sure doesn’t play like one.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol recorded 25 points and 14 rebounds against the Celtics on Thursday night, but his biggest play of the 88-87 Los Angeles victory came when he blocked Ray Allen‘s put-back attempt off a Paul Pierce miss as the overtime buzzer sounded.
“Probably, for sure,” Gasol said when asked if he thought Allen’s attempt would have sunk the Lakers had he not blocked the shot. “I think he had momentum, he was going to the rim, he’s obviously got amazing touch and I continued to play. I made a big play down the stretch, which could have cost the game.”
The Lakers wouldn’t have been in position to win the game had it not been for Gasol and center Andrew Bynum‘s combined 41 points and 31 rebounds — 20 of which came on the offensive end.
“We try to play hard and dominate every game and be a dominating couple every game,” added Gasol. “I think with our size and our level of skills, we can be. Sometimes we get to do it. Sometimes it doesn’t work both ways, but I think tonight obviously we got a great effort from Andrew. … I was able to be effective, too.”
By sending a second defender Kobe Bryant‘s way each time he touched the ball, the scheme designed by Celtics head coach Doc Rivers & Co. dared Gasol and Bynum to beat them.
“Every time I touched it, they sent a guy over, so I didn’t have much of a choice,” said Bryant, who finished with 25 points (on just 11-of-24 shooting) and four assists. “Look, if they’re going to send guys at me 25 from the hoop, somebody’s gotta be open. And my guys have to make plays.”
Which they did. The Lakers outscored the Celtics 46-38 in the paint and 24-13 on second-chance points. Jermaine O’Neal posted a paltry 8.7 percent rebounding rate, and C’s teammate Rajon Rondo — one of the best rebounding guards in the NBA — failed to corral a rebound until three minutes remained in the fourth quarter.
“We were just active,” said Gasol. “They do a good job on being really aggressive loading the strong side of the floor, and obviously Kobe created so much attention. Sometimes they took the bodies off us, and we just took advantage of that, trying to pursue the ball and get those loose balls and those rebounds and put them back.”
When it comes to the Celtics, size matters. The C’s are 10-2 when they out-rebound opponents. When they don’t? They’re 4-9. Simple as that. Which is why the Lakers have given them problems since the 2008 NBA title (5-9 vs. L.A. since) and even guys like Marcin Gortat and Anderson Varejao have given the Celtics problems all year. Any team that throws out a skilled big man gives them trouble, and the Lakers happen to have two of them.
“They’re big, man,” said Kevin Garnett. “Bynum is coming into his own. It’s good to see a big guy like that kind of reestablish the big man back in our league. He and Pau have a great chemistry. They work really well together. The second-chance points hurt us, but we knew that coming into the game. Trying to contain Kobe and our schemes and stuff, you leave those options open, so you’re going to give something up. Overall, I thought we played really well at times and in spurts. We’ve just got to put 48 minutes together.”
At least the Celtics are traveling to Toronto on Friday to take on the Raptors, whose best big man, Andrea Bargnani — allergic to the basket anyhow — hasn’t played since Jan. 25 with a strained left calf.