So Far, Gasol Is The Lakers MVP

Since Gasol returned to the lineup, the Lakers have lost only one game.

Nobody can do what Kobe Bryant can do. With the game on the line, with one last shot to take to win it all, there is nobody in the NBA you want to take that shot more than Kobe. He proved it again last night in Milwaukee, where Kobe Bryant scored the last of his 39 points on a picture-perfect fade away as time expired to give the Lakers the win.

But look at the box score, and you see Pau Gasol with 26 points, 22 rebounds and four blocked shots. He was the Lakers best player on the court in Wisconsin.

Kobe Bryant doesn’t get the chance to hit the game winner without Gasol. Since Gasol returned to the lineup, the Lakers have lost just one game. Who is the team’s MVP last night — the guy with the game winner but some struggles on the night, or the guy who kept the Lakers in it on an off night for everyone else?

That is true a lot of nights, especially recently, when Gasol has stepped up to fill in what the Lakers have been missing. Lately that has been rebounding, as Andrew Bynum has stopped grabbing boards (he had just three against the Bucks all game, although there were a variety of reasons).

In his last four games, Pau Gasol is averaging 19.5 rebounds per game, which gives him an average of 12.7 per game this season. That would tie Gasol with Dwight Howard, the best center in the game today and a rebounding machine (Gasol is not on the official NBA stats page yet because of how many games he missed to start the season). Gasol has been that good.

Gasol remains the most efficient scorer on the Lakers as well, shooting 57% since he returned from injury this year. He made 9 of 15 against the Bucks Wednesday, and that is pretty standard.

The fact of the matter is, when the offense runs through Gasol it runs more smoothly — Gasol was tied with high four assists Wednesday. Teammates know things are better when Gasol gets the ball, Kobe will gladly talk about it. Which makes it all the more odd that a couple times a year Gasol has to beg for more touches through the media, as he did after Tuesday night’s game in Chicago. But it works — he got 15 shots against the Bucks.

And it was Gasol’s play that kept the game close, kept the Lakers in it. The Lakers as a team look tired Wednesday, except for Gasol who looked like he had just pounded a case of Red Bull. He was everywhere. He kept the Lakers in the game.

Kobe would not have been able to hit the dramatic game winner without Gasol. So who does that make the team’s MVP?

Kurt Helin lives in Los Angeles where he is runs the NBA/Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold (which you can also follow in twitter).

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