On Sunday night at Staples Center, Pau Gasol led the Los Angeles Lakers to a narrow 105-103 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in a thrilling contest. After the Lakers blew a massive lead, Gasol won the game in the final seconds, and he did so at less than 100 percent health.
After the game, Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni explained that he only played the Spaniard about 11 minutes of the second half because Gasol was suffering with a respiratory issue.
A few days earlier, Gasol shared that he was suffering from a cold, but on Sunday, that cold was upgraded to a respiratory issue. As the tall Spaniard arrived at his locker after the game, he announced that he wanted to sit down while talking to the media. This was odd. Normally, Gasol towers over the television cameras and smiles down on the microphones and tape recorders.
“I’m having issues--chest and sinus infection,”Gasol explained. “I’ve been having some issues breathing.”
He continued, “I just can’t sustain the energy for as long as I want to.”
D’Antoni waited until fewer than six minutes remained in the game before calling on his captain. Statistically, Gasol struggled. He shot 0-4 from the field, made three of four free throws, and only blocked one shot in the final 5:40 of the game.
Sometimes, statistics don’t tell the story.
The Lakers, who led by as many as 21 points on the night, found themselves tied with 35.3 seconds remaining in the game. When the game was on the line, Gasol came through in the clutch.
Two of those three free throws came with six seconds remaining in the game and gave the Lakers a 105-103 lead. That block denied Kyle Korver the opportunity to tie the game with 2.9 seconds remaining--effectively ending the game. Gasol dominated the final 10 seconds of a close contest.
On the night, the sick Spaniard finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. He didn’t shoot well, but he won the game.