MMPG: Team of the Week

Los Angeles Lakers

Way to go, Pau. ... Where was this in June? (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers spent six months hearing about how soft they were, that they lacked the toughness to beat the Boston Celtics if the teams were to meet again in the NBA Finals. The talk consumed them, and at times distracted them, making their Christmas Day rematch against the Celtics a game they needed to have for their mental stability this season -- or at least until they play again on Feb. 5.

Pau Gasol, the spaghetti limbed center who is known as "Gasoft" in some circles, seemed to personify the Lakers' lack of toughness in the NBA Finals as Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett roughed him up. When asked about facing the Celtics a few weeks ago, Gasol said, "Every game is important, every game matters, but when you play the team that beat you in the Finals, you want to show them that things are a little different."

Gasol did just that on Christmas, as he scored seven of his 20 points in the final three minutes and added a late, game-clinching block during a 92-83 victory that snapped the Celtics' 19-game win streak.

The Lakers (25-5) won four in a row last week, with Gasol making an emotional return to Memphis on Monday, followed by an impressive beatdown of the Hornets in New Orleans on Tuesday. Although they have been obsessed with the Celtics, the Lakers didn't have any letdown in their next game against Golden State (which defeated Boston on Friday), as they scored a season-high 130 points in a 17-point victory.

By Michael Lee |  December 29, 2008; 9:36 AM ET MMPG:Week 9
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