Or at least make sure there’s a puncher’s chance in h-e-double-hockey-sticks the day can be saved.
After missing Games 4 and 5 against the Cavaliers—both losses—with a strained left hamstring, Gasol is set to play in Game 6 on Thursday. His status was unclear leading into Wednesday afternoon, though there were signs of this announcement coming, per the Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson:
Pau Gasol ran and went through a long post-practice workout on Wednesday and is a gametime decision for Thursday’s Game 6 with the strained left hamstring that has sidelined him the last two meetings with the Cavaliers.
“I think he knows his body,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “If he feels good enough to play, we’ll give it a shot. He’s been around long enough to understand. His health is the big thing. If he can go, he’ll go. If he can’t or doesn’t feel comfortable with it, he won’t.”
Gasol said on Tuesday in Cleveland that if he got to 50 or 60 percent effectiveness, he would try to play. He estimated his exertion level at 40 percent on Tuesday, but that clearly increased on Wednesday.
By late Wednesday afternoon, Gasol declared his intent to play Thursday night, per CSN Chicago’s Vincent Goodwill:
Gasol said he'll play tomorrow
— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) May 13, 2015
His return is not without its conditions, though. According to Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick, Gasol doesn’t expect to shoulder his usual workload:
Pau Gasol does say that it might not be wise to play his normal minutes
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 13, 2015
Trailing the Cavaliers 3-2 and facing the elimination, the Bulls have to be relieved. Teams that fall behind 3-2 in second-round series go on to advance just 18.9 percent of the time, according to WhoWins.com. They’ll need all the help they can get if they’re to overthrow LeBron James’ squadron twice in a row.
Pushing 34, Gasol won’t do much on the defensive end. Tom Thibodeau has him blocking shots again, but his main contributions continue to come on the offensive side of things, where the Bulls are statistically much better with him in the fold during the playoffs, per NBA.com. They’re also outscoring postseason opponents by 10.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, though that mark plummets to a minus-2.1 for this series specifically.
Still, Gasol is an extra, capable body—assuming, of course, that as little as “50 or 60 percent” of a fast-aging big man qualifies as capable.