Pau Gasol missed Chicago’s Game 4 loss to the Cavaliers with a hamstring injury, and his status remains in doubt for Tuesday night’s pivotal Game 5 contest.
From K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Thibodeau said Gasol is gametime decision, feels a little better. Would have to do shootaround and warm up without incident.
Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago doesn’t seem optimistic about Gasol’s chances.
Gasol was big in the Bulls’ Game 1 victory, as Cleveland’s defensive coverage dictated doubling the ball-handler on screen-and-rolls, which left Gasol open for midrange jumpers time and again. He finished with 21 points, though was far less effective in Game 2, specifically on the defensive end of the floor.
There have been rumblings that Chicago is better-equipped to deal with the Cavaliers from an overall matchup standpoint with Gasol out of action, but I’m not sure that’s the case. The Bulls need what Gasol brings offensively, as evidenced by the two huge scoring droughts that Chicago experienced which let the Cavaliers back into Game 4 after a substantial lead was in place.
If Gasol can’t go, we’ll once again see plenty of Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic. But after a highly-productive Game 3, the pair combined to shoot just 3-of-16 from the field in Chicago’s Game 4 loss.
Kyrie Irving has been playing through a foot injury, and LeBron James rolled his ankle in Game 4.
Good news and bad news for the Cavaliers – Irving has another injury but both expect to play Game 5.
Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
Game 5 is tomorrow, so not a short turnaround from Game 4. But Pau Gasol is also hurt, and Derrick Rose tends to play worse without multiple days of rest.
Both teams have injury concerns. At this point, the minimum postseason break (one day off) probably favors the Cavaliers.
They’ll probably just do what they’ve done throughout the playoffs – ask LeBron to carry them through their difficulties.
CHICAGO — As they try to defend home court against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls will be without Pau Gasol. He suffered a strained left hamstring in the Bulls’ Game 3 win over the Cavs, and head coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game that Gasol will not play Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve dealt with injuries before, so next guy, get in there and get the job done,” Thibodeau said in his pregame press conference. “We have guys who are more than capable.”
Thibodeau did not commit to a replacement for Gasol in the starting lineup. Taj Gibson is the most likely choice, but after a strong showing in Game 3, Nikola Mirotic has a chance at getting the nod as well.
After a big performance in Game 1, Gasol was largely ineffective in Game 2 and suffered the injury in Game 3.
The Bulls pulled off an incredible Game 3 victory over the Cavaliers, thanks to Derrick Rose banking home a three-pointer at the buzzer that put Chicago up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Perhaps more remarkable was that they were able to do it with a very limited contribution from Pau Gasol.
Gasol finished with six points, four rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots, but left the game five minutes into the third quarter with a hamstring injury, and did not return. He’s set for an MRI on Saturday, and his status remains questionable for Sunday’s critical Game 4 contest.
From Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:
“I have to do some tests, see how bad or good it is and then proceed from there,” Gasol said. “I’m just hoping that it’s not a bad tear or anything like that. Hamstrings are tricky and dangerous. Just hoping for the best and trying to stay positive.
“Hopefully I’ll get up [Saturday] with not much soreness and I’ll go to the hospital and do whatever it is I have to do to find out what I have.”
“Early in the first quarter, it started to tighten up,” Gasol said. “It really bothered me. I thought it was going to loosen up and I was going to be able to push through it. The more I pushed through it, the worse it got.”
Losing Gasol would be damaging, but the Bulls are a deep squad that may be able to survive his absence.
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Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic can provide at least some of what Gasol brings; they combined for 21 points and 17 rebounds in Game 3, while each playing around 22 minutes off the bench.
In a way, this game’s must-win status for the Bulls was a microcosm of their relationship with the Cavs in LeBron James’ first year back. If there is any year Chicago will get past Cleveland, it’s this one, since James and his new teammates are feeling each other out. And if there was any game in their second-round they would be in position to steal, it’s one of the first two. Kevin Love is out, and so is J.R. Smith. Smith will be back for Game 3, and the Cavs missed his shooting badly on Monday as the Bulls held on and withstood a late run to take Game 1 in Cleveland, 99-92.
Despite a late scare with a hit to the shoulder, Derrick Rose was mostly spectacular in Game 1. He led the Bulls with 25 points on 11-of-26 shooting and even shoot 3-of-6 from long range. It was exactly the kind of statement game Chicago needed from him to start the series, especially with Joakim Noah so ineffective.
The Bulls started the game with a 27-15 lead after the first quarter, thanks largely to a slot start by Kyrie Irving. But Irving heated up and finished with 30 points. He was forced to do a lot of the heavy lifting with Jimmy Butler tailing LeBron all game.
After being ineffective for most of the first-round series against the Bucks, Pau Gasol took advantage of the Cavs’ weak frontcourt defense for a 21-point, 10-rebound, four-block night.
This is only the beginning, and there aren’t a lot of sustainable takeaways for either team. James was comparatively forgettable, which is probably not going to happen again. The Bulls shot 55.6 percent from three-point range, which is also probably not going to happen again. But without Love, the Cavs look much more beatable than they would otherwise.