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Pau Gasol’s career-high 46 points helps Bulls end 2-game skid

Photo Credit: Inquirer.net

Photo Credit: Inquirer.net

The Chicago Bulls have some of the best odds to win the 2015 NBA championship, but they didn’t look anything like championship contenders in back-to-back hideous losses against the Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards. The Bulls lost by 20 at home to the Jazz on Wednesday, and then followed that up with a 16-point loss in Washington on Friday.

The news didn’t get much better before the Bulls faced the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, when it was revealed that Derrick Rose would miss the game with left knee soreness. That’s the same left knee that Rose had surgically repaired in 2012 when he tore his ACL.

With Rose out, Mike Dunleavy still on the shelf and the team in midst of a shooting slump, Chicago needed somebody to step up to avoid a third straight loss. The Bulls would get that and more from their biggest free-agent acquisition this past summer: Pau Gasol.

Gasol not only had his best game as a Bull, but arguably the best game of his career in a 95-87 triumph. The 34-year-old finished with a career-high 46 points on 17-of-30 shooting, and he also grabbed 18 rebounds, with eight of those of the offensive variety. The Bulls nabbed 22 offensive rebounds on the night.

Gasol used and abused Zaza Pachulia for much of the game, and when Pachulia wasn’t in there to get dominated, Jason Kidd strangely tried Jared Dudley on Gasol. Dudley is about a half-foot shorter, and although the Bucks sent double-teams nearly every time Gasol touched the ball, it didn’t matter.

It was a good thing Gasol was on his game, because not many other Bulls were. Kirk Hinrich was the only other Bull to score in double figures, notching 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Jimmy Butler stuffed up the stat sheet with nine points, eight rebounds and a career-high 10 assists, but he shot just 2-of-9 from the field. Bulls not named Gasol or Hinrich combined to shoot 11-of-45 from the field.

By shooting 39.8 percent from the field, Chicago failed to reach the 40 percent mark for the sixth time in its last eight games. In one of the two games the Bulls went over 40 percent, they shot just 41.8 percent. It’s a troubling trend for Chicago, although it’s not difficult to pinpoint the source of the shooting woes.

Rose has been terrible of late, shooting 27.9 percent overall and 16.1 percent from three in the Bulls’ last eight games. (Seven games for him because of the knee.) He continues to take threes at an alarming rate, and his shooting from mid-range and the restricted area have fallen off a cliff.

In addition to Rose’s shooting woes, Butler’s shooting has regressed a bit after his crazy start. Butler has shot 36.1 percent over the last eight games, and the combination of Rose and Butler struggling together has helped lead to the Bulls’ offensive woes.

Luckily for the Bulls, they have Gasol to help bail them out when Rose and Butler stink up the joint. The signing of Gasol at about $7 million a year has proven to be a huge coup, as he has been more productive than Carlos Boozer at less than half the price. Chicago just needs to hope that Gasol doesn’t break down by the end of the season due to his big minutes load, because they need all three players to be at their best in order to win a title.


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