Kobe Bryant Sparking Pau Gasol’s Improved Play?

LA Lakers v Charlotte BobcatsThrough the first 20 games of the season, Pau Gasol struggled mightily from the floor, averaging 14.2 points on 41.8 percent field goals.

Over the last five games, however, the 7-foot Spaniard has shown marked improvement, particularly on the most recent road trip.

Gasol’s averages in the last five: 17.0 points on 56.7 percent field goals.

His improved play has also come about with Kobe Bryant’s return to the court, with coach Mike D’Antoni electing to sub the two in and out of the game together. Both have seen the floor an equal amount of minutes over the last five contests.

Coincidence?

After the team’s loss at Oklahoma City, D’Antoni understood well what Bryant could do to aid Gasol’s play.

“(He) and Kobe have a little special thing together,” he said. “I think we can continue on that.”

Despite struggling from the floor (6 of 18) in the Lakers 88-85 win at Charlotte, Gasol came up big down the stretch with a huge block on Al Jefferson and two key free throws. He also scored seven of the last 12 Lakers points in the fourth to close out a win at Memphis. Over the last two games, he scored 37 points total on 16 of 21 field goals (76.2 percent), operating much more out of the post and around the basket.

Below is a look at his short chart over the last five games.
*All stats used are courtesy of NBA.com/stats.

Shot chart in last five games:
- Restricted area: 20 of 28 (71.4 percent)
- In the Paint (non-restricted area): 8 of 18 (44.4 percent)
- Mid-range: 6 of 14 (42.9 percent)
- Above the break 3-pointer: N/A
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Nearly half his shot attempts (28 of 60) have come inside the restricted area, whereas in the first 20 games, almost half (136 of 273) his looks came from mid-range and extended.

Shot chart in first 20 games:
- Restricted area: 34 of 57 (59.6 percent)
- In the Paint (non-restricted area): 31 of 80 (38.8 percent)
- Mid-range: 46 of 127 (36.2 percent)
- Above the break 3-pointer: 3 of 9 (33.3 percent)
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