Anyone who has followed the Eastern Conference semi-finals between the Cavs and Bulls can agree that injuries have had a huge impact on the games. Both sides have suffered game changing injuries. No one on the Cavs was forced to miss games except Kevin Love. On the other side, Pau Gasol has missed the past 2 games with a hamstring injury. Pau came out today and said he would play game 6 Thursday in Chicago.
Gasol’s presence will be felt Thursday night when the Cavs play the Bulls. He is an all star and one of the Bulls core guys. When Chicago runs their offense through him and makes an effort to get him involved, it has proven to work. We saw this in game one, Gasol shot 10/16 with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and the Bulls were +17 with Pau on the court. In game 2 Gasol only shot 8 times and scored 11 points. Game 3 is when he suffered his injury in the 3rd quarter.
Here’s a look at Gasol’s shot chart in three playoff games against the Cavs. He’s absolutely torched Cleveland from the mid-range area.
Gasol averages 15.1 points, nearly 10 boards, and 2.3 blocks in the playoffs. Without Gasol the Bulls have had depth problems. Typically Taj Gibson is the first man off the bench for the Bulls. Without Gasol Taj is forced to start making Nikola Mirotic the backup power forward spot. They are both fine players but if one of them gets into foul trouble, the Bulls don’t have the depth to replace another PF. In game 5 we saw Taj Gibson get ejected in the 3rd quarter forcing Mirotic to play most of the 4th.
This is the kind of element no Bull can provide, which is why Cavs will have to defend the pick-and-roll to perfection in Gamd 6.
The Cavs game plan will have to change just slightly in Game 6. Pau gives the Bulls a reliable post presence. He is their only real low post threat. Noah has not showed the ability to make a move and score with his back to the basket. Mirotic and Taj are decent scorers but nothing compared to Gasol. The Bulls will now be able to utilize the pick and roll between Gasol and Rose like they did in game 1. The Cavs struggled defensively against it but made good adjustments and defended it well in game 2. There is no doubt Gasol being out there will have a positive effect for the Bulls. If the Cavs can shoot and defend like they did in game 5, they should come out with a win Thursday night.