Bulls feeling there will be a Game 7 with Pau Gasol now returning for Game 6

SHARE Bulls feeling there will be a Game 7 with Pau Gasol now returning for Game 6

As far as Joakim Noah was concerned, he’s already got plans for this Sunday.

“We’re going back,’’ the Bulls big man said to several bystanders at the Advocate Center, as he was heading toward an awaiting media scrum.

The “going back’’ Noah was referring to was back to Cleveland for a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Semifinal. That means Noah was already anticipating Thursday’s do-or-die Game 6 as a Bulls win.

“These games are coming down to one or two possessions,’’ Noah said, when asked why all the confidence. “We feel like we can do a few things better and very excited about [Thursday].

“We know they’re gonna throw some punches and we’re gonna throw some punches. It’s just another round.’’

But a round the Bulls will be now fighting with a heavier glove.

After missing the last two starts – both Bulls losses – with a strained left hamstring, veteran Pau Gasol declared after the Wednesday film session that he would return for Game 6 – ready or not.

“I was able to do some shooting for the first time and move OK,’’ Gasol said. “So made some good progress [Wednesday]. No residual pain from [Tuesday]. Making progress, but at the end of the day [Thursday] is the game, and I’ll do everything I can to help the team.

“I’ll be out there. Whichever way I can be I will be.’’

Which will be the big question for Gasol. Yes, the 7-footer will definitely help, not only with a bit more rim protection, but with an offense that gets stagnant far too often without a true post presence. But just how much help can he be admittedly only at about 50 to 60 percent?

“I mean right now it’s win or go home,’’ Gasol said. “There’s nothing left but [Game 6]. What percentage I’ll be able to play? I don’t know, but whatever percentage I will be that’s what I’ll give.

“We’re in a tough position. Our backs are against the wall, but I think we’re very much alive and I like our chances, to be honest with you. I love our team. I love our resiliency all season long. All season we handled adversity, and [Thursday] is going to be a tough game. They’re in a close-out position, which they will try and take advantage of, but it’s up to us to stand up to the challenge and give everything we’ve got and fight for our lives.’’

Gasol might be the perfect addition to make that possible.

Forget his two championships with the Lakers and the experience that comes from that. Those intangibles come without saying. It’s what he did to the Cavaliers in Game 1, shooting 10-for-16 for 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. It’s the fact that both Bulls wins in this series came with Gasol in the starting lineup. More importantly, with rookie Nikola Mirotic struggling and Noah playing on one good leg, Gasol allows the Bulls to have more options in the frontcourt.

“He’s a big part of our success and a big part of this team so I would hope we’ll have him [for Game 6],’’ Noah said.

Sure, Gasol still hasn’t tested his jumping ability or how much he’ll be able to explode, but his hope is that his 50 percent will be good enough to get the Bulls over the top and force a Game 7 back in Cleveland just like Noah predicted.

“We’ll go how it feels and how it reacts, and we’ll go from there,’’ Gasol said. “I’ll tell you right now, whatever I can do to help.’’

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