Originally written April 03, 2013 on Purple and Gold Blog:
The Lakers will most likely do whatever they can to trade Pau Gasol this summer in order to help keep their salary books under what is currently $100 million. Gasol knows it. But that doesn't stop him from giving his all on the floor for this team. In a crucial game against the Mavericks on Tuesday, Pau put on a defensive effort on Dirk Nowitzki that really set the tone for the Lakers' defense the entire night. Averaging 21.3 points on a 57.1% clip in the prior 10 games, Nowitzki was held to just 11 points on 4-out-of-13 shooting, including 1-of-3 from distance. The credit also goes to Earl Clark, who had himself a phenomenal game and was the biggest reason behind the Lakers' 7-0 run after Dallas used their own 11-0 run to cut their deficit to just 5 points in the 3rd quarter, but it was Gasol's intensity on the defensive end from tip-off that kept Nowitzki out of rhythm offensively. That is not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination despite Pau's similar height and length to Dirk — but especially when you consider that Nowitzki usually thrives in the 4th quarter. But since Gasol, who was playing just his 6th game back from missing 20 games due to his torn plantar fascia, never gave him a chance to get comfortable on offense, Nowitzki missed all 3 shots he took down the stretch when the Mavs needed him most. Even the very best defenders in the league know that stopping the best scorers in 2 consecutive possessions is extremely tough. But to keep a scorer like Nowitzki out of his element for 48 minutes in a must-win game, especially from someone who isn't known for his defense, is unheard of. Gasol has taken plenty of harsh criticisms from a lot of people the past couple of seasons. They thought that, along his declining physical traits, he had lost that hunger, that desire to win another title like he showed during the last 2 championships. For one night, at least, Pau gave Laker fans a glimpse of that old championship grit.
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