Marc Gasol cut to the side of the free-throw line, took a pass from Lakers teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and quickly surveyed the defense, his eyes focused on the weak side of Minnesota’s defense.
With a flick of his right wrist, Gasol threw a nice little bounce pass to the cutting LeBron James for a two-handed dunk.
That was just one of the memorable moments for Gasol, his best moments in his first three games with the Lakers, moments that led the 6-foot-11 center to almost producing a triple-double during L.A.’s easy 127-91 win over the Timberwolves Sunday night at Staples Center.
His 12 points, seven rebounds and eight assists left his teammates in awe.
“Certain guys just see plays before it happens,” James said. “Do it with the mind, do it with the pass and Marc is one of those guys. His basketball IQ is … like you said, it’s not many see the game like that. I’ve been privileged to be alongside Do (Rajon Rondo) and now I’m alongside Marc, who can see the game.”
Gasol added four blocks to his already impressive night, allowing him to reach the milestone of 1,200 blocks in his career in becoming the sixth active player to have at least that many blocks. He joined teammate Anthony Davis, Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez and DeAndre Jordan.
And there was the masterful offensive night that included Gasol making all four of his field goals, all three of his three-pointers.
Gasol completed his night playing just 21 minutes over three quarters, an efficient night that saw him have a plus-24 in the plus-minus department.
“Everybody knows when the ball swings to Marc Gasol, that means the trailer is open and you see his ability to pass,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Just the space he [gives us], with his ability to shoot the three-ball brings the center away from the basket. … He really just had a great night. He was great on the defensive end as well. He’s really starting to pick up the details of our scheme. He did a great job on both sides of the ball.”
Gasol had an inauspicious start to his time with the Lakers.
Against the Clippers in the season opener, Gasol had more fouls (5) than points (0), rebounds (1) and assists (1), calling that a “tough” night.
He had only two points — on two free throws — to go along with nine rebounds in the Lakers’ win over the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas night.
But Gasol and the Lakers all knew better days were ahead.
All they have to do, Caldwell-Pope marveled, is move and cut, and Gasol will find the open teammate because he’s such a willing passer.
“He sees things before I even see it,” Caldwell-Pope said. “If I’m open, he’s going to throw you the ball. And that’s really anybody that’s cutting off of Marc. He has that feel of the game. He has a great rhythm with the ball in his hands. He’s a great passer. Just playing off him is going to open up a lot because you can’t really help on him, unless he’s going to shoot the ball. He’s a great shooter. If you do help, he can make the cross-court pass because he sees the floor. Just playing with him, man, is going to be great. It’s going to be a lot of easy back-door cuts, layups and even threes. … It’s going to be amazing playing with him.”