Raptors coach Nick Nurse, pacing the sideline, does not holler at his gifted big man, but his heart rate elevates as he waits. He knows that when Gasol scores more than 10 points in the playoffs, Toronto is tough to beat. (The Raptors are 6-1 when Gasol scores in double figures this postseason.)
There’s another former Gasol coach watching, too. New York Knicks coach David Fizdale can relate to the frustration about Gasol’s reluctance to let it fly. When Gasol and Fizdale were together in Memphis, it was a point of contention. After watching Game 1, Fizdale notes, “You can almost feel Marc saying, ‘Should I?’ But he has to take those shots.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap
Fizdale is right. After nearly three seconds tick off — an eternity in today’s fast-paced NBA world — Gasol fires off the trey. It swishes through, one of the six baskets he will convert on a 20-point night that plays a key role in a Raptors win.
Gasol doesn’t fare as well in Game 2. DeMarcus Cousins badgers him with two hard fouls to start the game, and he scores just six points on 2-of-7 shooting with no 3s.
That is a problem for his team.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gasol has been one of the league’s most effective 3-point shooters this postseason. Of the 32 players who have taken at least 50 3s in the playoffs, he ranks 12th with a shooting percentage of 38.8. When Gasol drains the long ball, it pays off for the Raptors, opening up the floor for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam.
Even the threat of Gasol from beyond the arc is an asset. The two-month Raptor knocked down only one of four shots from beyond the arc but pitched in 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes in Game 3. Those minutes offered valued space on the floor, and Toronto secured a 2-1 advantage behind its best offensive showing of the Finals.cheap nfl jerseys china nike
“We’d like him to shoot them, especially when it’s a rhythm shot,” Nurse says, “but Marc is one of the great big-men passers. It’s always harder to convince guys to shoot more than to convince guys to shoot less. That’s the battle we’re in a little bit with Marc.”
Left unsaid is this: Toronto needs more from its thoughtful big man, who, like so many centers, has had to contend with a shift away from a traditional low-post attack. Fizdale spent a tumultuous year and a half in Memphis insisting that Gasol be a more aggressive scorer, a stretch-5 who could shoot the 3 and excel in a pace-and-space system.