The Warriors are on pace to match or break the 72-10 record held by the 1996 Chicago Bulls. They came into town after dominating the Eastern Conference leading Cavaliers, and the Bulls were looking to show that they could stick with the best the West had to offer and do what the Cavs couldn't. The Bulls should have been pumped to get a shot at adding another tally to Golden State's loss column in an effort to stop them from taking down the record set by their own franchise just under two decades earlier. Derrick Rose looked ready from the get go. Pau Gasol? Not so much. While I certainly can't say that he wasn't trying, a look back into his first quarter against the Warriors makes you want to vomit.
Let's set the scene. Derrick Rose has just scored his first two buckets and looked like he was ready to prove to reigning MVP Steph Curry that he still has what it takes to be a top point guard in this league. Another defensive stop and the Bulls could be looking to go on a quick 6-0 run to start the game. Instead, Pau gets destroyed on the offensive glass by Bogut twice in the same possession. He's stuck way too far under the hoop, doesn't box out, and can't jump much anymore. Bogut isn't even a good offensive rebounder. He's averaging less then two offensive rebounds per game, and his ORB% is under 10%. Pau just let himself get bullied on the glass twice, but that second one could easily be blamed on Jimmy Butler for not helping the helper (though Pau really didn't shift over that far) and the Warriors didn't capitalize anyway. No harm, no foul, right?
The Bulls finally secure a rebound and they go to Gasol in the high post. First, I hate this play call. It basically ends up being a clear out for Pau on the high post. I'm fine with clearing him on the low block, but this just looks like a losing play from the start. Two lazy cuts and then no movement off the ball are sure to lead to disaster. Sure enough, Pau tries to beat Bogut off the dribble, gets stripped, and this leads to the Warriors' first two points of the game. Not a great start for Pau. It has to get better, right?
Here's where I really start to have a problem. Yes, you have a bad switch. Bogut has 8+ inches on Rose. It sucks. You know what sucks worse? Steph Curry getting an easy look at a three because Pau overhelps. This is a failure of Pau, Jimmy, and Snell in my opinion. Pau can not under any circumstances help that far off of Curry. However, Jimmy could help off of Green. Green is a good three point shooter in his own right, but I'll take my chances with Green over Curry. Snell could also help off of Thompson. While you don't want to leave Thomson open, he has the shortest help and recovery path. Heck, leave Rose stuck down there. Bogut might score, but he's been assisted on a whopping 75% of his scores. He is not much of an iso player anymore. Pau overhelps. Steph drains the three.
I've got a Pau two for one special here. Pau gives up another offensive board to Bogut. Then, he completely misses helping on the Curry cut. Ya, Rose got beat a bit, but not really all that badly. Pau lethargically reaches a single hand in there and barely moves his feet. If he reacts and shifts over, he can prevent an easy Curry And-1.
This is a situation where Pau has awful situational awareness. Bogut is out near the arc, and Moore got stuck covering Draymond Green. Pau absolutely needs to shift over to provide help to Moore. Instead, he watches as Moore gets destroyed inside by the much larger Green.
This is where Pau's inability to play any type of perimeter D really hurts. Am I being too hard on Pau here? I really don't think so. It's not so much that he gets dunked on, but he puts himself in no man's land. He's in a spot where he's not much help on the drive, but he's also not in a good spot to stop the rolling Bogut.
In fairness to Pau, this one is on Pau and Doug. Mirotic gets beat off the dribble, but there is zero excuse for a guy getting an uncontested layup when he starts his drive from the three point line. This is just a lack of effort.
I don't even know what to say here. Pau doesn't even move. He also does that little half shrug thing at the end that irritates me. What could he possibly be saying there to excuse his 7 foot self from help defense?
Am I being too tough on Pau? Possibly. But this was all just the first 10 minutes of the biggest game of the season. In the first quarter, he went 0-3 from the field, turned it over twice, gave up plenty of offensive boards, and played some poor help defense. In the biggest game of the season, Pau needed to be better.
The Bulls have a problem. You can't win without Pau Gasol, but you probably aren't going to to go very far in the playoffs with him either, especially without Joakim Noah being able to step in and provide what Pau most often cannot. Here's the thing, I really just don't like Pau Gasol. I should like him, but I really don't. From a certain perspective, he's exactly what you want to see in a 7 footer. He has a very nice post game, can shoot from deep midrange, his ball handling skills are solid for a big man, and he can pass the ball pretty well too. However, despite his size, he is poor at grabbing contested rebounds, can't defend the pick and roll particularly well, blows help assignments frequently, and he always seems to be looking to put the blame for his missed defensive assignment on someone else.