Steve Blake started Sunday’s game with eight assists in the first quarter, but the Los Angeles Lakers still trailed by two after 12 minutes. Jordan Hill had 10 points and nine rebounds at the half, but the Lakers were down by six after 24 minutes.
Then, Pau Gasol awoke.
After 36 minutes, the Lakers reversed the score line and led by eight. At 48 minutes, the Lakers finished the game ahead by 15 points. He may not have done it alone, but Gasol proved to be the difference.
On Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers put together an impressive second half and knocked down the Detroit Pistons 114-99 at Staples Center. Hill had a career night, and Blake improved on his strong early season play. Although Blake and Hill stood out, Gasol was the gentle giant who finally came to life during a crucial third quarter that won the game.
Hill was the player of the game, leading all scorers with 24 points and hitting the boards for 17 rebounds. Both categories were career-highs for the 26-year-old forward, and his energy fueled the Lakers throughout the night. Hill has been a revelation since moving into the starting lineup, and his strong play has convinced Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni to alter his philosophy of playing an undersized power forward in the lineup.
Although Blake’s 16 assists deservedly grabbed eyeballs, both Lakers point guards were instrumental in helping the Lakers reach 114 points on the night. Jordan Farmar only played 13 minutes, but he shot 50 percent from the field and collected five assists while he was on the clock. When Blake needed a rest, Farmar stepped in, moved the ball, and didn’t allow the offense to break stride. Farmar consistently looked for Hill on the pick-and-roll, and that combination allowed both players and the team to flourish.
Along with the two point guards, Gasol connected the team as a facilitator in the front court. He helped conduct the Lakers’ offense, and the trio of playmakers was responsible for 28 of the Lakers’ 33 assists on the night.
Gasol’s influence over the game was especially visible during a decisive 12 minutes that changed the game—the third quarter.
After trailing by six points at the half, the Lakers turned the game in the third quarter by scoring 29 points and only allowing 15 points. Gasol was the only Laker who played the entire period. Gasol filled up the box score with four points, four assists, two rebound, and one block shot during those 12 minutes, and the Lakers never looked back.
“I was happy to see that the coach decided to let me continue to play and be out there for a longer period of time,” Gasol reflected on the third quarter after the game. “That gave me, also, confidence. So, we stepped it up defensively. We came up with the stops, with big plays on the defensive end, and then, we converted and got going on the offensive end too—getting easy buckets and moving the ball well.”
Gasol finished only three assists and one rebound shy of a triple-double, and that is the type of contribution the Lakers require from their humble Spanish superstar on a nightly basis.
Blake and Hill deserved the headlines, but the Spanish superstar was quietly the difference in Sunday’s Lakers win over the Pistons.