Could Playoff Gasol become the surprise X-factor off the bench raining clutch threes and dishing off dimes to lead the Lakers to the championship in this year’s playoffs much like Playoff Rondo did in last year’s playoffs?
After missing the first round of the playoffs last year, Playoff Rondo was the surprise playoff x-factor for the Lakers, averaging 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.6 assists in 24.7 minutes per game while shooting 20 of 50 from three. Monday night, we saw a similar performance from Marc Gasol who got a chance to play when Andre Drummond got into foul trouble and posted 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists in 17.0 minutes while hitting 3 of 4 from three.
For a Lakers team that was short on trustworthy playmakers and 3-point shooters, Rondo’s playoff performance last year was a big difference maker that made up for the loss of Bradley and helping win the championship. Gasol may be perfectly positioned to do the same thing for the Lakers in the playoffs this year. After being hesitant to shoot earlier, Marc has been extremely aggressive as a shooter and playmaker in his recent outings.
After a mediocre regular season last year when Rondo averaged just 7.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists in 20.5 minutes per game while shooting just 32.8% from three, nobody expected Rondo to be a key force in the playoffs. Marc Gasol now finds himself in a similar situation after a disappointing regular season. He’s not only fighting to regain his starting role but also to make sure he beats out Harrell to stay in the Lakers’ playoff rotation.
Before losing his starting role after the Lakers signed Andre Drummond, Gasol had been averaging 4.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 19.5 minutes per game while shooting 34.7% from three on 2.4 threes per game. Since being relegated to coming off the bench, Marc has has upped his averages to 8.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 17.9 minutes per game while shooting 66.7% from three on 2.6 attempts per game.
Initially upset when he lost his starting role, Gasol has since refocused his game to being more aggressive offensively and his postgame comments to being the ultimate team player he’s always been throughout his long career. While Drummond’s been given more minutes to adjust to his new team and role, Marc Gasol’s enhanced performance and championship pedigree have made a strong case for him to start at center once the playoffs begin.
Regardless of whom Vogel ultimately decides to start at center, Marc Gasol has clearly demonstrated his presence in the Lakers’ playoff rotation is going to be essential, which opens the door for him to replicate Playoff Rondo. Given 20 minutes per game in the playoffs, Marc Gasol could easily match Rondo’s playoff performance by averaging 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 40% from deep on 3.0 threes per game.
Marc showed in Monday’s win against the Nuggets he can defend Jokic as well as any player on the Lakers and promises to be the team’s best matchup against Rudy Gobert and the Jazz, another likely West playoff opponent. We’ll get a chance on Thursday night to see how Marc matches up with Ivica Zubac and DeMarcus Cousins of the Clippers, likely the third of the Lakers’ three Western Conference playoff opponents along with Denver and Utah.
Should he continue to play as well as he has since Drummond joined the team, Gasol has a great chance to be the x-factor in the Lakers winning this year’s NBA playoffs like Rajon Rondo was in last year’s playoffs.
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