PBT Extra: Three reasons for the Bulls to be optimistic about Game 6


The Bulls are on the brink of elimination heading into Thursday night’s Game 6, but I tell Julie Donaldson there are good reasons for Bulls fans to be optimistic they can live to play another day.

The best news for Chicago is the return of Pau Gasol, who gives them needed scoring and depth up front. Gasol has not been brilliant this series — the defense was four points per 100 possessions worse when he was on the court in the first two games — but they need his offense and the depth more than anything.


PBT Extra: Vintage LeBron James too much for Bulls


This is why it’s good to have the best player in the world on your team — he can just win you games.

LeBron James did that for Cleveland in Game 5 — he was everywhere at both ends, scoring efficiently and then blocking Derrick Rose’s shot near the end. His energy never let up all game. It helped that Kyrie Irving was knocking down shots, too, but this was all about LeBron. He put the Cavaliers up 3-2 in the series.

Cleveland may need that LeBron again in Game 6. Expect the Bulls — with Pau Gasol back — to put up a fight. But as good as Jimmy Butler is, he can’t contain an attacking LeBron. Nobody can. But the Bulls will try again to make him less efficient, if the unstoppable LeBron shows up their efforts may be in vain.

Cavs ride huge LeBron James performance to crucial win, take 3-2 series lead over Bulls


Through the first four games of the Bulls-Cavs series, LeBron James has been the first to admit that he needed to be more efficient. He hit a miracle buzzer-beater to win Game 4, but he scored his 25 points in that game on 30 shots.

Game 5 was a different story. James was a monster on Tuesday, doing a little bit of everything on the way to 38 points on 14-of-24 shooting, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks and — most crucially — no turnovers.

After early foul trouble from Jimmy Butler, James scored 16 points in the second quarter, taking advantage of the defensive matchups of Tony Snell and Kirk Hinrich. It’s hard to beat the Cavs when LeBron is playing like this.

In another encouraging development for Cleveland, Kyrie Irving appears to have a pulse again. After foot problems held him to 2-of-10 shooting in Game 4, he moved much better in Game 5. He finished with 25 points on an efficient 9-of-16 shooting and had five assists, after taking heat in the previous two games for putting up zeroes in that column.

The Bulls jumped out to an 8-0 start at the beginning of the game but couldn’t keep up the momentum, trailing by one at the end of the first quarter and finishing the night shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 28 percent from three-point range.

The Bulls, who have been without Pau Gasol for the last two games, weren’t able to find efficient offense from anyone outside of Jimmy Butler, who finished with 29 points and 9 rebounds. Derrick Rose cooled off after a hot start, shooting 5-for-7 from the field in the first quarter but making just two more shots the rest of the night and finishing 7-for-24.

Despite being outplayed at both ends, though, the Bulls were still very much in this game at the end. They trailed by two with under a minute to go, but a missed three-pointer by Butler cost them an opportunity to take the lead. They were only able to score two points the rest of the night, and from there, they were forced to play the foul game.

Now, the Bulls’ season is on the ropes heading back to Chicago on Thursday for Game 6. It’s do or die for them, and maybe for Tom Thibodeau’s time in Chicago.

Bulls’ Pau Gasol officially out for Game 5


As it has been for a couple games, the interior offense that Pau Gasol provides will be absent from the Chicago Bulls lineup.

His hamstring strain remains an issue that will keep him on the bench. This is not a surprise after he barely took part in shootaround, but coach Tom Thibodeau made it official pregame. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

This is not all bad for the Bulls — when Gasol was on the court this series the Bulls defense was -9.7 points per 100 possessions. He’s not a good matchup much of the time against the Cavaliers, but Thibodeau leaned on him.

If the Bulls play more Nikola Mirotic — particularly paired with Taj Gibson — they will be better off.

Gasol reportedly is improving and could be back before this series ends.

LeBron doesn’t test sore ankle at shootaround, says ‘I’ll be ready to go’ for Game 5


LeBron James rolled his ankle late in the third quarter of Game 4 against the Bulls, but was able to continue to play and ultimately knock down the game-winner to get his Cavaliers even in the best-of-seven series.

“I rolled it pretty good,” James said afterward “I haven’t had an opportunity to see the replay, but I know I rolled it pretty good when I stepped on D-Rose’s foot in transition. I wasn’t coming out. I felt it on the floor for a while, and I just took my time. I was not coming out not only because of the position our team was in but because of who I am as the leader of the team. I was going to fight through it no matter what.”

James is planning to fight through it again in a pivotal Game 5, and while it’s one thing to tighten up your laces and play through the pain on adrenaline, it’s quite another to try to do so after the swelling has set in following not more than a couple of days’ rest.

LeBron didn’t test the ankle at the morning shootaround, but insisted he’ll be ready by tip-off Tuesday night.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:

“It makes no sense [to test it in the morning],” James said to reporters. He wore sandals, leaving the heavy wrap on his ankle in plain sight. “I’ll give it a test tonight.” …

James said, though, the ankle would not stop him from playing in Game 5. “It’s been better, but it’s been worse,” James said. “So, I’ll be ready to go tonight.” …

“When you’re dealing with injuries, you just find other ways to help the team, and I think we both are going to do that tonight.”

James was referring to himself and Kyrie Irving, the latter of whom is dealing with multiple injuries, but is also planning to play regardless.

Announcement: Play one-day fantasy basketball tonight! Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $250,000 league for Tuesday’s NBA games. It’s just $5 to join and first place wins $15,000. Starts tonight at 7pm ET. Enter now!

On the Chicago side, Pau Gasol is a gametime decision for the crucial Game 5 contest.