Gasol gets his touches, and Kobe's happy

January, 21, 2013
1/21/13
4:10
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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CHICAGO -- Plenty of things went wrong for the Lakers as their road losing streak extended to five with a 108-103 defeat at the hands of a hapless Toronto Raptors team that was just 14-26 coming into the game.

Dwight Howard was ejected. Kobe Bryant shot just 10-for-32. The Lakers' defense allowed Toronto to shoot 54.8 percent from the field as a team.

But one thing that went in the right direction for a Lakers squad that seems to be regressing by the day was the play of Pau Gasol.

Gasol scored a season-high 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting, with 18 of those coming in the second half, when Howard was out of the game and Gasol became L.A.'s primary focus on the block.

"You saw a steady diet of Pau in the post tonight, which I’m very happy about -- I’m very, very happy about -- because we got a lot of easy things from him down there," Bryant said after the game. "So, we’ll start seeing that more often."

It was just the second 20-plus point game for Gasol this season; the first came in the opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 30. The 12-year veteran is averaging career lows in points per game (12.6) and shooting (43.2 percent) this year. To put it in perspective, the four-time All-Star has scored in single digits three times as many times as he's scored 20 or more this season.

Gasol said that his output wasn't just a product of him being parked in the paint, but came from the general thrust of him being involved in the offense more often.

"I don't think the second half we ran a lot of the offense through the post," Gasol said as he made his way out of the arena to the Lakers' team bus Sunday in Toronto. "It was more through, like, pick-and-rolls and me setting good screens and the point guard finding me -- Steve [Nash], Chris [Duhon] and I think Kobe also found me once or twice. That was more it. It wasn't a lot through the post.”

“Our system doesn't really put you in that position too often. It depends,” he said. “You start with a pick-and-roll, then you roll, then you might get to the post. But then, it will depend on the ball getting to the wing and then to hit you. It's different steps that you depend on in order for the ball to get there."

Gasol huddled with Metta World Peace in the locker room at length after the Toronto game to figure out a way to best put the pieces the Lakers have together.

"I think the only way we can get out of this situation, the path that we’ve been on, is by communicating and coming to an understanding of what needs to be done as a unit," Gasol said.

"We can’t do it on our own. Right now, there’s a few cracks in our game that we need to cover up. We need to make sure they disappear, they go away. The only way that can happen is if we talk about it as a unit, understand each other and figure it out."

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni acquiesced to Gasol's desire to start, and it paid off Sunday. We'll see if the coach can continue to cater the offense to the Spaniard, now that he's been given a reminder of how good Gasol can be.

"Get the Lakers right," D'Antoni said when asked after the Raptors loss what L.A. has to do moving forward. "We haven’t gotten it right. That’s going to have to be our focus. It doesn’t have anything to do with the other teams. It’s got a lot to do with us."

That will take a continued effort to try to mesh Gasol in with all the other pieces.

"I'm going to try to get myself there," Gasol said. "It's going to be a little more challenging when me and Dwight are on the court together, but I think it's worth it if we can figure it out. I think it will benefit everyone. That's hopefully the point that we'll reach sooner than later."

Can it happen starting tonight against Chicago?

"We'll see what happens," Gasol said. "Every game is a little different, right? I wish I had the answer and the certainty that things will happen a certain way, but I don't. We're searching."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0