Pau Gasol is improving but will it be in time to help the Bulls in this series?

SHARE Pau Gasol is improving but will it be in time to help the Bulls in this series?

CLEVELAND – It hasn’t been easy for Pau Gasol.

Sure, the left hamstring strain that has now kept him from starting in a second consecutive game on Tuesday was one thing. Watching how Games 3 and 4 came down to the wire with him on the shelf? That’s been the real torture.

“Very difficult,’’ Gasol said of missing yet another game with the injury. “It’s very hard for me not to play at this time when we need everyone on the floor as we could possibly have. And it’s hard to have missed the other day’s game. I feel like I could make a difference on the floor and help the team have a better chance, and [Tuesday’s] also, so I remain hopeful, remain positive that I can be back for the series, but at the same time try and support my teammates as much as I can, anyway I can.’’

As Gasol pointed out, it wasn’t his first rodeo with an injured hamstring.

He had one that sidelined him for a month a few years back, and another one that took two-and-a-half weeks to get better. Considering this latest one happened in the second quarter of Game 3, eventually forcing him out by the third quarter, his hope was this latest injury was somewhat mild in comparison.

“By the tests that we did in the clinic, it’s not a terrible strain, otherwise that would put me out for awhile,’’ Gasol said. “Like I said, we’re doing everything we can to get me on the floor as soon as possible, but at the same time hamstring strains are very tricky.’’

With Gasol sidelined, that meant Taj Gibson was once again in the starting lineup.

“I think Pau is a pick-and-pop guy that can spread the floor a little bit,’’ Jimmy Butler said, when asked about life without Gasol. “We miss his rebounding and the way he passes out of the post, and of course he commands a few double-teams here and there. I think Pau’s been a key part of our success all season, but if he’s not with us then somebody has to step up and fill that void.’’

What they’re trying to fill was 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in the regular season, and 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game in the playoffs.

The immediate plan on Wednesday was more rehab and treatment, and then see where that leaves Gasol for Game 6 in Chicago on Thursday, but according to Gasol there’s still a lot of tests that the hamstring has to pass in order to get the nod.

“Running at full speed, changing direction, jumping, exploding off the leg,’’ Gasol said. “There’s still some steps that I need to get done in the next 48 hours in order to be able to play an NBA game.’’

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