Is Kobe Bryant actually Pau Gasol’s sidekick?

Think about it…Pau Gasol is averaging 18.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in the playoffs, and is shooting a scintillating 58.1% from the field. One of the best gauges of overall offensive efficiency is points per shot (PPS), which is simply the total points scored divided by the number of field goal attempts. Gasol’s PPS is 1.54, which is outstanding.

Then you have Kobe. Sure, he’s averaging 30.1 points, but he has to shoot almost 23 shots per game to get those points. (He’s also averaging 5.4 assists and 5.1 rebounds.) His PPS is 1.33, which is still good, but is almost 14% less than Gasol’s.

Kobe is so determined to win a title this season for one reason — he wants to dispel the notion that he can only win a championship as Shaq’s sidekick. If the Lakers do manage to eliminate the Magic and Kobe does indeed get his fourth ring, he will have accomplished this feat…as Pau Gasol’s sidekick.

Now before any Kobe apologists start pounding furiously at their keyboards, I don’t actually believe this to be true. Kobe is the better player, but these numbers beg the question — why aren’t the Lakers using Gasol more?

Against the Magic, Gasol has made 23 of his 37 field goal attempts (62%). Against the Nuggets, he shot 63% from the field. The Spaniard is on such a roll right now that the Lakers should be feeding him the ball until the Magic find a way to stop him. Anytime Andrew Bynum is in the game, Rashard Lewis has to cover Gasol, and he’s no match for Pau in the post. Heck, even when Bynum goes to the bench, Gasol is scoring at will on Dwight Howard, the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year. Gasol was 9 of 11 from the field in Game 3, yet it was Kobe who took the most shots (11 of 25, 44%), even when he was clearly struggling down the stretch.

Mark my words, if Gasol keeps this production up and the Lakers go on to lose this series, it will be because Kobe took too many shots.

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The Finals: Game 3 reaction

Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: Orlando shot the hell out of the ball. The Lakers made a ton of mistakes on the defensive end of the court, but Orlando had just as big a role, if not much bigger, in tossing in 108 points in a slow game. The ball movement wasn’t perfect, but it was done quickly, and the shots were falling even as the Magic (supposedly) bucked NBA tradition by going from the outside-in. The ball was moving, and the spacing was there. Yes, the screen and roll attack bogged down a bit in the third and part of the fourth quarter as the team’s legs left them and Hedo Turkoglu made some questionable decisions, but by and large the Magic built their offensive juggernaut with quick flashes to the ball that were met by a pass. Credit Stan Van Gundy’s play calling. Early in the first quarter, he set his shakier-types up for quick looks that they couldn’t think too long about. Rashard Lewis’ first two buckets were quick flashes to the post for a turnaround jumper. Rafer Alston’s first attempts (and makes) were on guard-around screens that Derek Fisher went under. All four shots left no room for contemplation. All four shots went in.

Jeff Miller of the OC Register: Kobe Bryant, so often the inhuman highlight film, was oh so human Tuesday, the game’s No. 1 closer this time the victim of someone else’s walk-off dramatics. “You know,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said after a 108-104 loss to the Magic, “we’re all frail as humans.” All it means for now is The Finals will be going at least five games. Ultimately, that might be it, nothing more than a blip on the way to the top. But if the Magic can continue badgering Bryant and he keeps huffing down the stretch and Orlando is making its shots … there’s still a chance this matchup could become quite interesting. See, even Bryant, who has carried this team – this franchise, actually – for so long now, is still subject to the most basic of man’s needs. Specifically, we’re talking here about oxygen.

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Resilient Magic take Game 3

The Magic shot a Finals-record 62.5% from the field, but amazingly enough, they only won by four, 108-104. Still, a win is a win and the Magic have to feel good about how they played in Game 3.

Orlando had five players score 18-plus points: Dwight Howard (21 points, 14 rebounds), Rashard Lewis (21), Rafer Alston (20), Hedo Turkoglu (18) and Mickael Pietrus (18). Pietrus gave the Magic a big lift in the fourth quarter with a terrific follow-up dunk (that was actually a goaltend) and a key steal with less than 0:30 to play and the Magic nursing a two-point lead.

Orlando really moved the ball well and was able to get good shot after good shot, save for a stretch in the fourth quarter where the Lakers erased the Magic’s nine-point lead.

Kobe Bryant was as hot as a pistol in the first half, scoring 21 points in the first two periods, but he really struggled down the stretch. He was just 4 of 9 from the free throw line and turned the ball over four times. He finished with 31 points, eight assists and five boards. Pau Gasol chipped in with 23 points on 9-11 shooting. He is in such a groove in the post and the Lakers aren’t going to him enough.

The Magic are still very much in this series. They need to take this one game at a time and not think about the daunting task of winning three games in a row at home. They’ve already proven they can outplay the Lakers in Los Angeles, so if they can get two more wins in Orlando, the series will be very interesting. If the Lakers come back to L.A. up 3-2, the series is all but over.

Finals commentary, prior to Game 3

Ramona Shelburne of the LA Daily News: The plays are only noticeable in hindsight. On replays. In memory. And sometimes not even then. Little plays that could be pivotal if they don’t go the right way. Some call them “veteran plays.” Others use terms like “heady” and “mature” or “cerebral.” It sounds vague and arbitrary, but tell that to the team that doesn’t know how to make these kinds of plays. It’s even harder to explain how some players learn to make them and others don’t. Whether it’s instinct or experience, natural poise or acquired savvy. Only one thing is certain: Championship teams make them, everyone else watches them later in the film room. And right now, the Lakers are the team in these NBA Finals keeping the opposing video technician busy.

Jeff Briggs of the RCS Blog: Tonight, Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals is on NBC at 8pm. A mere hour later, Game 3 of the NBA Finals airs on ABC. While there are clearly two separate sets of fans that follow the sports, the two leagues are still cannibalizing each other’s audience. Sports fans like to watch championship events. People shouldn’t be forced to choose between either the Stanley Cup or NBA finals. They should be able to watch both, hockey one day and basketball the next.

Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: The Lakers haven’t allowed the Magic to be the Magic much at all in taking a 2-0 lead. They’ve had them on the run since this whole thing started, creating chaos. The Magic have been scrambling to find other ways to play, and with other players playing different positions, causing realignment of X’s as well as O’s. Hard to play the NBA Finals on the fly, but it’s reality. Coach Stan Van Gundy pulled out everything imaginable from his bag of tricks on Sunday, and somehow the Magic almost turned the Finals on its ear before losing in overtime.

George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: The Magic have scored just 171 points in consecutive losses. That 85.5 average has something to do with the Lakers’ defense, obviously. But it also has much to do with the inability of the Magic to get into any groove when the ball is bouncing in their hands. We’ll get to the point: Jameer Nelson coming back after a four-month layoff has mucked things up for the Magic in the NBA Finals. This is the dark side of the silver lining Magic fans saw in Nelson’s return after that prolonged absence because of his shoulder injury. Nelson’s unexpected availability has messed with the Magic mojo.

With a little help from their friends, Lakers win Game 2 in OT

The Lakers survived a tough test, but beat the Magic, 101-96, in overtime.

The officiating was pretty awful in this game, especially in the first quarter and down the stretch. There was a series of calls late in the game that were all questionable and all went in the Lakers’ favor. Mickael Pietrus was called for a bogus foul on a Kobe Bryant drive, Hedo Turkoglu was called for a cheap offensive foul which wiped away a nice little jumper, and Lamar Odom drilled Courtney Lee on his driving layup attempt with less than ten seconds to play in regulation, and no foul was called. Orlando’s last best chance to win was Lee’s alley-oop attempt with 0.6 seconds to play, but the lob pass was a little too deep and he was unable to convert the shot.

The Lakers executed well in overtime, and Odom uncharacteristically made two clutch free throws to put the Lakers up by five with 0:22 to play. J.J. Redick and Rashard Lewis had a couple of tough, contested three point attempts to cut into the lead, but time expired with a pair of misses.

I can’t help but leave this game thinking that if not for the help from the officials, the Lakers would have lost this game in regulation. I guess that’s just home court advantage, but it really seemed like the refs took over the game down the stretch instead of letting the players battle it out.

Kobe had 29 points, eight assists, four rebounds and seven turnovers. Pau Gasol added 24 points and 10 boards, and Odom once again had a good game off the bench, posting 19 points and eight boards. If he keeps playing like this, the Lakers will have to re-sign him this offseason.

Orlando got great play from Lewis (34 points) and Turkoglu (22 points), and while Dwight Howard had 17 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and four steals, he also had seven turnovers, which is waaaaaaay too many for a big man. He spent a lot of time complaining to the refs when he lost the ball instead of getting back on defense.

The problem for the Magic is that they aren’t getting much production from their supporting cast. The rest of the Magic went 8 for 31 from the field, lowlighted by Rafer Alston’s 1 for 8 performance. He seems bothered by Jameer Nelson’s presence, but the Magic need a fourth and fifth guy to make some shots.

The Lakers are doing a good job of rotating and keeping the Magic from getting easy baskets, but Orlando had a ton of open shots in the first half and just couldn’t convert.

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