<
>

Pau Gasol again solid as Spain beats Lithuania

9/5/2011

Pau Gasol, 3-point bomber?

Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Just as he's elevated this basketball, Pau Gasol has elevated his play through four games of the Eurobasket.

While the guy certainly has range for a seven-footer, during his NBA career Pau has hit only 22.4 percent of of his triples, and since arriving in L.A. has hit only two more 3's for the Lakers than I have. But something in the Lithuanian water has caused Gasol to find his inner Steve Kerr. Among his 17 points in a 91-79 win over the host nation were a pair of hoists from downtown, bringing his percentage for the tournament from beyond the arc to a spectacular 75 percent.

Sure, the international 3-point line is closer by a foot-and-a-half or so than the NBA's, and the sample size is small to the point of total insignificance (four shots). But hey, 75 percent is pretty good! Maybe good enough for Lakers fans to forgive him that last-second miss from beyond the arc against the Blazers in April of 2010. (You know, in case the championship he'd later help deliver wasn't enough.) As for the rest of his game, watching the replay online Gasol again turned in a solid performance.

The overall shooting line -- seven-of-15-- was easily Pau's worst of Spain's four games in Pool A play, though the numbers are slightly skewed by a trio of fourth quarter misses during what was already garbage time. As has been the case throughout the Eurobasket, Gasol was generally decisive with the ball and appeared confident his game.

On Spain's first trip, Gasol read the approaching double as post feed was in the air, and with what nearly amounted to a touch pass kicked to Jose Calderon for three. Minutes later, with a strong burst to the rim he turned a handoff to Rudy Fernandez at the top of the arc into a sweet back door alley oop. In the second, Gasol helped force a turnover with solid pick and roll defense, then after running the length of the floor accepted another nice pass from Fernandez for a layup, finishing through contact for the and-one. Later he'd assist on consecutive Spanish baskets, first returning the favor for Fernandez, then teeing up Serge Ibaka.

Then, of course, a triple to end the half. Because that's how he rolls.

Gasol was not the star of the night-- that honor belonged to Juan Carlos Navarro, who hit five 3's en route to 22 points, to accompany four dimes-- but the Spanish team is talented enough they don't need him to be, at least not every game.

The only really scary moment came at the top of the second quarter, when Pau closed nicely on free throw line jumper from Jonas Valanciunas. He got the block, but landed awkwardly and immediately grabbed his left ankle. Pau stayed in the game, and given he played a 30 minutes (far more than in Spain's previous two games) appeared no worse for wear.