BOSTON (AP) — Pau Gasol finally got the ball with a chance to shoot, and Kevin Garnett sent it back at him.
A few minutes later, the same thing happened.
Gasol was little more than a spectator of the Kobe Bryant show in Game 5 of the NBA finals on Sunday night. And if he doesn’t become part of the offense again, he might be watching something else: another Boston Celtics celebration at the Los Angeles Lakers’ expense.
The forward from Spain either couldn’t get himself involved or the Lakers wouldn’t involve him. Gasol got only four shots in the first half and finished with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting in the Celtics’ 92-86 victory that gave them a 3-2 lead in the series.
Even worse for the Lakers, he looked passive and pouty, getting overwhelmed by Garnett and often complaining to the officials, just as he did when the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2008 finals.
Gasol was hardly the Lakers’ only problem. Nobody else was in double figures until his free throw with 2:25 remaining, and they would’ve been blown off the TD Garden floor if not for Bryant’s sensational third quarter.
But Gasol is the one who is most expected to step up and be the No. 2 man, the All-Star big with enough skills to score inside or out. And he had been mostly making up for his miserable 2008 series, averaging 20.5 points on 54 percent shooting in the first four games while largely outplaying Garnett.
But he has occasionally expressed frustration when the Lakers forget to throw the ball into the post, and he got few touches in the first half. He put up only four shots, then was swatted twice by Garnett in the third quarter when the ball did come his way.
Just for good measure, Tony Allen got him, too, racing in from nowhere to stop Gasol’s attempt under the basket.
This resembled a Lakers game from the 2005-06 season, when they had little talent around Bryant and forced him to be great nearly every game for a chance to win.
He was superb in the third quarter, scoring 19 points on a series of long jumpers. But that’s not going to beat the Celtics, who are prepared to deal with big nights from Bryant as long as nobody else has them.
“We are going to have to win a game eventually in this series where he goes off for a big number,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said before the game. “But that number, whatever it is, it’s still not the final number. Other people still have to score for them.”
Derek Fisher and Andrew Bynum couldn’t, going scoreless after combining for 15 points in the first quarter. Gasol couldn’t do much better in his lowest-scoring game of the series.
He needed to be better in 2008, and still does now.