by Tzvi Twersky

Two games into the 2010 NBA Finals, Pau Gasol was almost there.

Coming off a 23 and 14 performance in Game 1 and a 25 and 8 in Game 2, he was almost at the point where the labels “soft” and “not clutch” were inaccurate (and maybe they still are). But then last night’s Game 5 happened–with two minutes left in the third quater, Pau had scored a silent two points; he finished with 12–and the doubts resurfaced.

Is Pau Gasol a big-time player?

Kevin Ding weighs in:

That’s because Pau Gasol, for all his sweet skills and how pivotal he has been to the Lakers’ greatness these past three years, has been passive, indecisive and – yes – soft when the pressure is on, the footing is unfamiliar and the faces are even more so.

Gasol faltered yet again Sunday night on the road and in the clutch, pushing the Lakers to a 3-2 NBA Finals deficit.

It was the same old spiel from Gasol afterward, reminding himself to “be the aggressor” the next game. He said his plan for Game 6 is to be “very, very aggressive, very confident, and understand the situation we’re at now.”

And there is a great possibility Gasol does redouble his efforts and push himself into those tight spaces and dark places he doesn’t just go by nature. He’s that smart and self-aware that he can do that, so maybe in the long-term future he can fix what has been wrong in his past, too.

It’s not easy to be great with the pressure on and the fans against you. It doesn’t mean Gasol is not a true All-Star. It’s not that he can’t play on the road, either: He averaged exactly 18.3 points home and away this season, shooting 54 percent home and 53 percent away.

It just takes a little extra grit and spit to come through against such extreme adversity.

And even though he’s a champion now, these are days when you have to remember that Gasol never won a playoff game before joining Bryant.

Not a playoff series, but a single playoff game. Gasol went 0-12.

Though they’re down 3-2 in the series, and though he’s once again “soft”, it’s not over just yet for the Los Angeles Lakers or Pau Gasol.

They–he–have one, maybe two more chances to show what they’re made of.