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Man Born Round Don't Die Square

look into those soft eyes
look into those soft eyes

The popular refrain following game one is that Pau Gasol is no longer "soft."  Hogwash.  Maybe he worked out a little bit in the offseason and added strength, but he didn't develop into a "tough" player in the last 2 years.  With that said, he has always been skilled and he has been more assertive lately, which makes him very dangerous.

Labels are a funny thing.  The difference between "soft" and "finesse" is how productive you are.  Just because a guy tries to avoid contact if he can doesn't necessarily make him a bad player (see Dirk Nowitzki).  Just because a guy flops to try to get calls, doesn't make him less effective (see Paul Pierce).  Sometimes the best way to beat brute force is to step aside and get the brute off balance to the point where you can take advantage.  

Gasol always has been a finesse player, he just got knocked off his game in 2008 when he let KG dictate the style of play.  This year Garnett is a step slower and Gasol is a step more aggressive and so far that has made all the difference in the world.

The other thing that helps Gasol is that the guy on his team that plays the role of brute is actually on the court this time.  Bynum is no Dwight Howard, but he occupies Perk's time and energy enough to free up Pau for more space to roam in the paint.

So what can KG do about it?  The gameplan is still the same.  Punch him in the neck (figuratively speaking only please) and don't let him get comfortable.  Granted, if the refs are going to call a tight game, it takes away your ability to rough him up too much, but there are still ways to aggressively seek contact without drawing a whistle.  A good start would be to box him out on any shot, no matter where he is on the floor.  Don't even worry about the ball at first, just push him away from the basket.  Take away his second chance points and you minimize much of the kind of damage that he did on Thursday.

It is the same theory for any good player.  Take away what they do best and force them to do things that don't come naturally.  Gasol may have learned a number of things in the last few years.  He's certainly matured and gained valuable experience.  But that leopard didn't change his spots.  He can still be pushed around.  Just watch out for the sidestep.

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