In even tones but no uncertain terms, greatly raising the stakes without raising their voices, the coach of the Lakers and the star of the Lakers called out big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol after the 113-96 loss to the Nuggets on Thursdaythat forced a Game 7 in the first-round series.
Already facing pressure to step up their play as the Lakers’ advantage of size and inside play goes to waste, Gasol and Bynum were moved even more into the crosshairs by Mike Brown and Kobe Bryant, both clearly frustrated by Gasol managing three points on one-of-10 shooting with three rebounds and by Bynum getting 11 points on four-of-11 shooting. Bynum did have a game-high 16 rebounds, but his series has become a run of nights without focus.
“We’re going to need more out our two bigs,” Brown said as the Lakers faced the reality of going from a 2-0 series lead to a Game 7 in Los Angeles on Saturday night. “They’re our second- and third-best players. We’re going to need a lot more out of those guys in order to win the series. But not just scoring wise. Defensively. Defensively to follow the game-plan discipline and do it with some effort and some energy and really just lay it out on the line.”
Bryant followed soon after.
“Of course I agree with that,” he said of Brown’s critique. “I talked with Pau a little bit after the game and I’ll speak with Andrew as well. It’s one of those things where psychologically you have to put yourself in a predicament, in a position, where you have no other option but to perform. You have to emotionally put your back to the wall and kind of trick yourself, so to speak, to feel that there’s no other option but to perform and to battle, when you have that, when you have that mindset, your performance shines through, your talent shines through. It doesn’t matter what the defense does. It doesn’t matter because you’re emotionally at a level that is above that. That is the mindset that they have to put themselves in.”
Gasol, in typical fashion, did not sidestep the criticism.
“Obviously we both want to contribute more on both ends of the floor,” he said. “We have to be more active on the defensive end and help our guards and come up with the ball. On the offensive end, they’re doing a good job of sitting in our laps and coming and double-teaming. It hasn’t been easy to get into any kind of rhythm….”