Nowitzki has been the best player in the series, averaging 28.0 points on 56 percent shooting while playing such tough defense that Lakers coach Phil Jackson complained Saturday about the Mavs being allowed too many physical liberties while guarding Gasol in the post. Gasol, the primary scapegoat in the series, is averaging 13.3 points on 43 percent shooting.
Gasol acknowledges that he needs to snap out of a mental funk, but he also gives ample credit to his fellow European 7-footer.
“He’s just in a great groove right now,” said Gasol, who has been victimized for 45 points on 19-of-25 shooting while guarding Nowitzki this series. “This is the best I’ve seen him play in his career, to be honest with you. He’s in a great rhythm, great confidence and he’s playing really well. He’s shooting extremely well and confidently. You can’t take anything away from that.”
Only one problem with that comment from Gasol: Of all people, he should know this isn’t an especially spectacular playoff series by Nowitzki’s standards.
After all, this isn’t the first time Dirk dominated Gasol in a playoff series. It happened in the first round five years ago, when Nowitzki averaged 31.3 points during a sweep of Gasol’s Memphis Grizzlies.
Gasol owns two rings, but the head-to-head playoff matchups with Nowitzki eliminates any doubt about which power forward wears the crown as the best European to ever play in the NBA. Just look at the numbers from those seven meetings.
Points per game: Nowitzki 31.3, Gasol 17.3.
Shooting percentage: Nowitzki .529, Gasol .431.
Rebounds per game: Nowitzki 8.7, Gasol 8.0.
Wins: Nowitzki 7, Gasol 0.