Dwight Howard did not even manage a double-double and only scored nine points in over 35 minutes on the floor Friday night.
Earlier in the season, the post-game discussion following an offensively uninvolved performance like Friday’s against Memphis would likely focus on why Howard was forgotten down the stretch and how the Lakers’ center can get more touches (Mike D’Antoni’s least favorite word) in the future.
However, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Memphis Grizzlies, and Howard’s lack of offensive involvement was not a cause for concern due to a 7-footer by the name of Pau Gasol.
Since returning from injury, Gasol has played like a two-time champion—which he is. Gasol had 19 points and played the two-man game with Kobe Bryant to set up the Lakers’ offense throughout the contest. It may be a simple concept to start the offense with two players who carried the Lakers to three straight trips to the NBA Finals, but the Lakers have only recently gone back to the proven formula.
With Gasol providing scoring and passing from the elbow down, Howard’s lowly four points on two field goal attempts in the second half were no longer a massive concern for Los Angeles. As an added bonus, Gasol appeared content with his role in the team and hoped for more of the same going forward.
More important than Gasol being happy, Bryant appeared satisfied with what he saw. He heaped praise on his Spanish teammate and discussed how Gasol’s direct involvement early in the offense created opportunities for everyone wearing purple and gold.
“We’re using him the right way,” Bryant said about Gasol on Friday night. "It's been a lot of figuring out. It's been coaching changes. It's been injuries. It's been all that crap man, but it's better late than never."
Both Bryant and Gasol were enthusiastic about how the Lakers’ offense looked against the Grizzlies, and head coach Mike D’Antoni made three.
“When Pau’s playing at this level, he’s as good as anyone in the league,” D’Antoni concluded.