POf course he has not said anything about it but, as it seemed planned, we have all thought that Pau Gasol will leave basketball professional at the end of the season. Recovery at Barça, minutes to pick up pace in low-commitment matches, call-up in the National Team, Olympic Games and retreat through the front door. But maybe not everyone had a rejuvenated version of Pau Gasol and very, very valuable.
For those who thought that Pau’s role in this Barça would be residual, that any game of the Endesa League Playoffs is seen. For example, this first in the final against Madrid. The value of Pau is enormous: few minutes and many things that add up. It is the wish of any coach. Against Madrid, 16 minutes on the track and a valuation of 16 with 8 points and 8 rebounds. 8 + 8 in an ACB final (it is no longer a regular league match against a team from the lower part), they are numbers that many much younger stars do not reach.
And not only do his points or rebounds count, but also his leadership on the court and on the bench. His example and what his legend represents. Not, Pau should not retire at the end of this season because his career still has things to say. Barcelona’s project is also his. It would be a sacrilege for basketball to stay no player like him in the state he’s in. And Scariolo, rubbing his hands …
Cory Higgins was signed by Barcelona for these matches, for these moments. He is a unique player in Europe and he shows this when the clash enters its decisive moment. It seems that it is not, but it is. Mentally he is a rock and has a range of fundamentals almost inexhaustible.
Madrid tried to hold him with Taylor, with Abalde, with Causeur … there was no way. The guard broke the game with 14 points in the third quarter and 26 at the end of the game. He is on the way to being the MVP of the final, if Barça win. He is the star of this team and that is why, when the game was on the wing, he arrived and took over the Final. It’s what the best do.
The upline that led Usman Garuba in these Playoffs he suddenly collapsed in one of the most unfortunate games, if not the most, of his professional career. Garuba lived the first duel of the final shocked by the fouls, without shooting a basket and what is rarer, without participating in the rebounding festival of his team.
Garuba finished with 1 point, 1 rebound and a -6 valuation that does not at all summarize the great growth he has had. We will see how this affects their morale for the second game and how they take it in the US for the next Draft.
That Madrid depends largely on Tavares It is something that has been known for a long time. Against Barça, he depended more than ever. He leaned on it to dominate at the beginning and his rest and less contribution coincided with the Barça rush.
Tavares signed an impressive quarter which, had it continued, could have been a record in the ACB finals. The first quarter ended with 7 points, 8 rebounds and a PIR of 16 in 10 minutes in which he was plugged in and highly motivated, perhaps due to the presence of Pau in the rival team. Then, more earthly, he ended up blurring with his team.
Few, very few times will it happen in basketball that a team captures 21 attack rebounds (12 more than his rival) and 43 in total and he ends up losing. Madrid was condemned for his bad shot, 8 of 27 in triples and 18 of 49 in field goals, and his defensive misalignments with Higgins.
Although a mate by Tavares in the first quarter posterizing Pau Gasol and Niko Mirotic and with a lack of Kuric had made WiZink tremble, Barça’s response was this marvel of Brandon Davies in the midst of a Barça storm. A play that aspires to be the best in the final.