The Los Angeles Lakers are on a two-game winning streak, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day brings the Lakers to the windy city where they will take on the Chicago Bulls. Despite losing six of their nine games since the start of 2014, the Lakers are getting consistent contributions from several Lakers—namely, Pau Gasol.
After underperforming due to injuries and illnesses, Gasol has shrugged off the criticism and increased his production. Over the month of January, the Spaniard is averaging 20.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Along with putting up All-Star level statistics, Gasol is playing efficient basketball.
Since the clock turned 2014, he is shooting 49.7 percent from the field.
Gasol is not the only Laker who is playing better than the team record indicates. On Sunday, Nick Young dropped in 29 points and led the team in the fourth quarter. Excluding the game he was ejected for fighting, Young has scored 25 or more points in three of his last four performances.
Gasol and Young are the two leaders in the locker room, and each has a contrasting voice for the team. This pair, however, does not clash. Young’s personality makes the game fun for his teammates—including Gasol—and Gasol’s experience and plethora of post moves provides the team with quality not found in any of the other available players.
“Pau’s Ballin,’” Young was quoted as saying following Sunday’s win.
In that game, Gasol scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but that is all within the norm these days.
Along with the pair of veterans, a couple young pups are raising eyebrows.
Since moving into the starting lineup, Kendall Marshall is averaging 13 points and 12 assists per game. Entering Monday’s game, Marshall has five straight games with 10 or more assists. Marshall occasionally gets in trouble with too many turnovers, but Sunday featured a controlled 22-year-old point guard dishing out 11 assists and only recording two turnovers.
Another youngster earning time in the sunshine is rookie Ryan Kelly. Kelly has played over 30 minutes for three games in a row and is now the Lakers’ starting power forward. Kelly hit clutch free throws and stepped up the challenge late in games the last two times out. Kelly can lay legitimate claim to the current two-game winning streak, and that is why he should hold onto his starting spot against Chicago.