How Pau Racked Up the Assists

How Pau Racked Up the Assists

Notching his second triple double in 10 days, while averaging 7.0 assists per game over the last 10 games, Pau Gasol is setting the table for everyone on the court. With the Bulls running the 1-5 high PnR, there are plenty of chances for Gasol to make plays out of the high post for shooters and drivers, and he's making the most of that opportunity with Jimmy Butler out again with knee soreness. The Bulls have the luxury of running their offense through a big man at the high post and that allows for plenty of off-ball movement and general offensive creativity.

Early in the first quarter, the Bulls ran the same set on back-to-back plays.

It starts with a 1-4 sideline PnR with Nikola Mirotic setting a screen and immediately diving towards the basket. Meanwhile, Rose flips it to Gasol at the top of the key, who touch passes it down to Mirotic. It worked so well, they ran it on back-to-back sets.

This time with a schnazzy look-away pass, Gasol finds Mirotic all alone under the goal. These misdirection plays open up a wide lane to the basket. The Bulls actually run the same set for the Gasol-Butler lob.

What unlocks this play is Rose's ability to attack the paint off the PnR. That draws the big defender over to help such that Gasol is open at the top of the key. In this set, Rose attacks further and finds E'Twaun Moore in the opposite corner. Moore gives it up to Gasol, who finds Gibson has sealed Giannis Antetokounmpo right in front of the basket. Taj drop steps and gets the offensive interference call. Another assist for Gasol.

They ran this for Gibson towards the beginning of the first quarter to work the paint early.

Another classic play call out of this 1-5 PnR action results in an easy bucket for Dunleavy on the weak side.

As Rose uses the screen, he draws Greg Monroe's attention, who helps a step too far. Rose dumps it back to Gasol, who gets pressure from the weak-side help (Jabari Parker). At this point, Middleton has to choose between helping Taj Gibson under the basket or Dunleavy in the corner. Gasol waits for Middleton to commit and then fires to Dunleavy for the easy corner three.

The Bulls ran this one all evening as well.

Similar action here: Rose-Gasol PnR and Gasol receives the pass at the high post. Meanwhile, Gasol has drawn so much attention that Middleton loses sight of Dunleavy. Instead of waiting in the corner, he creeps along the baseline for a reverse layup, without much pressure from Parker, who is late to react and help off of Gibson.

Gasol certainly benefited from the generous scorekeepers at the United Center, gaining an extra two dimes on plays that might be considered a stretch...

But alas, Gasol ended up with 13 assists, so even without those two, he would have reached the coveted triple-double. More importantly, the Bulls won their second straight game and held their opponent under 100 points for the first time in 16 games. Hopefully, they can build off of this momentum and continue to use Gasol as a facilitator out of the high post, moving forward.


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Tags: pau gasol, Will Gottlieb


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  • Will, you obviously do not know much about basketball. If you are one of the persons on this board who think that Gasol's routine double-doubles are nothing but selfish "stat stuffing," then his triple-doubles are even a worse example of his complete selfishness.

    For example, on many of those passes from the top of the key he could have easily hoisted up a jumper instead. But instead he made a great pass. As you know, he always is aware of his stats and he selfishly made these passes to pad his numbers. And what about those five blocks? He could have easily waved his arms needlessly to try to distract the shooter. But no, he had to block the shot instead.

    And don't even mention points and rebounds. Don't you know that when another player, say Niko, gets a bucket that counts as two points and adds to the total score. But when Gasol gets a basket, that's an "empty" stat that does not add to the total score. The guys at Blog-a-Bull get this. How come you don't?

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Don't feed the troll.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Will, I know you do. I wrote that post with tongue firmly in cheek. I found the column refreshing in that it did not contain the usual "Pau bashing" that passes for intelligent basketball analysis from the folks at Blog-a-Bull.

  • It seems like a lot of this is similar to what Thibs ran with Jo as a Point-Center. How much of this do you think is still Thibs scheme, and how much would be Hoiberg influenced?

  • In reply to bpmueller:

    This looks more effective than the sets for Noah in the high post Thibs ran. Once Noah started his dribble that was the cue for a backcut to the basket usually by Jimmy. If that was covered by the defense then the play turned into a disaster. There was no 2nd and 3rd option that I can remember. It seems Hoiberg has improved on the idea by using Pau who's more of a threat to shoot so draws more attention, a bit more weakside action to hide the dive to the basket, and a wing in the corner ready to knock down the 3 if they collapse.

  • In reply to Redwhitenblack:

    It's similar in that they both make plays from the same spot, but Noah had a lot more play initiation responsibilities. Whether he would run the ball up the court after a miss or be a threat attacking the paint from the high post, Noah did more with the ball. Gasol gets the pass at the high key and can make a quick decision, but it comes out of the PnR rather than his own creation. Neither is wrong, both are effective. Very similar but there are some subtle differences.

  • I agree that Gasol's play of late, (more or less since Butler got injured) has likely been the best of his Bulls tenure, with his game now looking a lot more like 2014-15 Noah, essentially running the Bulls offense out of the high post. The obvious differences being Gasol's superior(to Noah) shooting/scoring skills and that no matter how many blocked shots he stumbles into(at least half last night) his defensive impact is simply not in the same universe as a healthy Noah, and almost certainly not good enough to get the stops necessary to win games in crunch time in the playoffs.

    This version of Gasol would actually be tolerable, if you could eliminate the whiny little cry baby bitch act/body language. Unfortunately, it is not an act, it is the very essence of who he is, an extremely thin skinned(ego), massively over prideful, self centered, perhaps selfish player who regularly spouts empty platitudes to the media in an effort to make him look like someone he isn't. He is far more of a self absorbed player/human being than he is a true team first guy. There is plenty of evidence at each of his NBA stops if one is actually interested in gleaning the truth about his essential character as a basketball player.

    Right on cue, here are a couple of perfect examples from his comments after last nights game.

    “When the game is on the line and the score is close and you are going down the stretch you need big plays, especially on the defensive end to stop momentum and build for yourself,” noted Gasol. “Important we were able to stop them and stretch out the lead. It’s hard enough to get a triple double. I’m glad my blocks also are up there. I’ve been the last two seasons at the top of the league (in blocks); for a poor defender, it is not bad.”

    “I guess I am happy I am able to play at this level at this stage of my career,” said Gasol. “Without question, I cannot do it without my teammates, who do the right thing out there and play the right way. I guess when you are able to do exceptional things you feel proud of what you do and it’s encouraging to continue to work hard to have a chance to do it again.”

    It will be very interesting to see if he can keep this up against better quality competition, starting Thursday in SA(assuming that Pop doesn't sit half the team), and in particular in the playoffs, when more or less everybody actually tries to play some D and the coaches generally attempt to attack the other team's weaknesses.

    Never-the-less I still would have looked very long and very hard at making that Sacto deal for the betterment of our future rather than betting on the wing and prayer chance of doing something in this year's playoffs. I will/would greatly enjoy at least making it to the ECF, even if we end up losing to Lebron again. However, in the long run the only way that you can really justify not making that move when it was available would be if we actually make the NBA finals. Losing in the ECF simply isn't good enough to take the short view given the overall state of the team, especially in light of the particulars of Gasol's individual situation. First, turning 36 before next season starts and the certainty that he is opting out and near certainty that he is leaving. We know this because he already told Kobe, just like the Lakers before us, the Bulls have personally and irreparably offended his delicate sensibilities, and there is simply no way he can forgive something like that and return to the team.

    Obviously, we will never know, but I truly wonder how much worse off this team would be if it were perfectly healthy(minus Noah) with Koufos starting at center for us. I'd say we still make the playoffs, how far we get after that, who knows. However, isn't that pretty much where we are at right now. Koufos would have to be better on the defensive end, even if we lose .45 blocks per 36. Do we have enough "other" offensive options to make up for what Gasol contributes on the offensive end, maybe not. However, will Gasol himself be able to give us his current level of contribution on that end in the playoffs, again who knows, maybe not.

    Interestingly, FWIW, Koufos shoots 51.5% from the field, while Mr automatic is still only shooting 46.9%. He also averages a double double(according to some the most important stat in the world) on a per 36 basis. Well, I guess that we will just have to wait until May to find out.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yeah, the Sacto trade was a roll of the dice. I would have done it, but I would not have been confident that the team would have improved.

    Anyway, if Gasol does walk, then the Bulls have an extra $10 million to play with - and maybe no one to buy with it! Guess we will see on that too.

  • Interesting how some people, when they are unable to criticize a player because of performance (2 triple-doubles and two near triple-doubles), decide to attack that player's "essential character" instead. OK, let's look at Pau's "essential character."

    1. In 2012, Gasol won the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Award for "outstanding service and dedication to the community."

    2. Kobe called Pau the best teammate he ever had and said that he was like a "brother to him." Butler and Rose both said he is a great teammate.

    3. Phil Jackson called Pau the smartest player he has ever coached and said that he was like a "son to him."

    4. Gasol's foundation has raised millions of dollars for charity. Gasol has a special fondness for St. Jude's Children's hospital where his mother works as a volunteer.

    5. Pau is a classical musician at the piano.

    6. Pau speaks fluent Spanish, Catalan, and English and has near fluency in Italian and French.

    Pau is called a "whiny-bitch" on the court. Interesting how I have never seen Pau get tossed-out of a game for arguing calls. However, Noah has been tossed-out of games for arguing calls. How come nobody has ever said that Noah lacks "character?"

    When professional sports have some players who are essentially thugs in uniforms getting all kinds of media attention, even after committing terrible acts, (Rothlisberger, Iverson, Winston, etc.) why is it that a great player with an admirable character has to be dragged through the mud on a continual basis by so-called fans on this board?

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    I don't want to get in the middle of your argument with Bigway, but I think this has gotten to the point that both of you guys just try to discredit everything what the other has to say, while reading and interpreting everything in your very own subjective views.
    e.g. Bigway writes about Gasol's "essential character as a basketball player", while stating some arguments that clearly go over the top (to provoke you). You on the other hand state arguments that have nothing to do with his basketball persona.
    So what if Gasol plays the piano and speaks many languages. Ever heard of the Italian football player Mario Balotelli? He's an enfant terrible on the court, a total Diva who disrupts team chemistry. He also plays the piano, speaks several languages and is culturally interested. I actually think Gasol is a better person and probably a better teammate, but you get my point. How about you just let Bigway have his opinion and Bigway let's you have yours? Chances are pretty high, that neither of you is truly right about him anyway.
    I also believe that he can be disruptive, but also valuable under the right circumstances. I think he might be a bit arrogant, but I would also wouldn't mind grabbing a beer with him. And I'm also very likely very wrong about many things regarding Gasol.

  • In reply to Rincewind:

    Thank you for your common sense reasoned response.

    That's essentially what I've been doing or trying to do for the longest time. I simply do not respond to "it" unless "it" personally attacks me for disagreeing with his opinion about a basketball player, which is both an asinine behavior and some form of retrograde insanity. I've suggested politely ignoring each other for over a year now, but people of "its" ilk have an insatiable need to prove that they are smarter than everybody else, all of the time, about everything, usually it's just politics. That is why "it" has violently and personally attacked every host/moderator of this blog (and pretty much ruined this place in the process) each and every time that one of them has had anything less than positive to say about Mr Krispy Kreme Pansey.
    For all we know, "it" might be single handedly responsible for Doug finally giving up and focusing on his career instead of killing himslef keeping this thing going.

    If anyone needs any proof, I quote from the first line of the first response in today's post.

    "Will, you obviously do not know much about basketball".

    This is "obvious" because Will has a different opinion about Pau Gasol the basketball player than "it" does. Heck, that's actually borderline polite compared to "its" usual inane bullshit. Will has wisely learned not to engage, thus avoiding the inevitable nuclear escalation into more flagrant ad hominem attacks and a never ending stream of petulant infantile gibberish.

    By the way, like you, I'm sure that I too would enjoy sharing a beer with Gasol, or more appropriately a nice bottle of Rioja along with some Jamon Iberico or perhaps a bottle of Verdejo, Albarino or a nice Cava by Segura Viudas with some Boquerones while expertly discussing the merits of both with him.

    I guarantee you that I would have more to talk about with Gasol than "it" does, particularly outside of basketball. I don't have any malice toward Gasol as a human being. But as a Bulls fan, I don't really care about his life as an effete saint outside of basketball. I simply care about what he does on the court and how he does it, and I like to have some fun expressing my opinions about what is still the candy store of life, a basketball game.

    In my book it is absolutely and always a character flaw when you do not give everything that you have to give essentially all of the time in pursuit of the profession that you have chosen to make a career of. This character flaw is even more galling, when your job is a game that you have been paid $100's of millions of dollars play.

    There is not a single intellectually honest human being on earth who can or would argue that Gulliver gives anything near maximum effort, anywhere near 100% of the time on the defensive end of the court. Therefore, irrespective of his pursuit of effete saintliness off the court, as a basketball player he is smart and talented but a severely flawed character. These flaws are also reflected in the self centered egotistic nature of just about everything he says about the game on and off the court as well as by his single minded obsession with his personal stats. Actually, not really all that over the top.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    You just couldn't leave it alone, could you? First of all, my comment about Will was tongue-in-cheek as is pretty clear from the context. I wrote a response to Will on this when he first responded that he disagreed with me. Will then removed both posts as he apparently understood my intent. I made it very clear to Will that I thought he did, in fact, know a lot about basketball.

    Secondly, your comment that you have no malice towards Gasol is complete and utter bullshit. You have taken the opportunity to try to destroy his character on almost a daily basis. Just look at your latest post.

    You claim that Gasol is an egotist. That is also BS. Who is the clown that talks about his imaginary educational accomplishments ad nauseum? Pau is actually a very humble and gracious person as anyone who actually knows him would attest to. You are just a nobody so-called fan who makes things up about him because he has a lot of class and you don't.

  • The Bulls under Thibs were as defined by Noah, arguably the best interior help defender in the NBA, as they were Thibs or any other player. Noah and his NYC pal Taj Gibson brought a New York tough, hard hat and lunch pail mentality to the team. Thibs deserves some credit for getting that out of Noah (and Taj), but Noah deserves a lot of credit for taking his development seriously.

    The team's identity changed last year when Gasol replaced Noah as the team's starting center, despite Thibs being the head coach. I'm not being critical of Gasol when I say that the identity changed, he's just a very different player than Noah. The starting unit offense gained a much more dynamic look, scoring a lot more than past units with Noah on the floor. But gone was the hustling interior help defender, the hard hat and lunch pail mentality. This was all the more true with Noah being hobbled and less than 100% effective last year, and to a lesser degree, due to Taj's shifting focus to the offensive side of his game, and finally, to Gasol, who is talented, but more of a finesse player than a hard-nosed guy.

    Most are blaming Hoiberg for the team's loss of identity, and I absolutely think his hiring has made it worse, but it started before he got here. The loss of Noah as starting C has just as much more more to do with the loss of Bulls identity, IMO. It was all there to see under Thibs last year, that along with the FO's undermining of him made it worse, and now Hoiberg, and you get this shit, just another NBA team.

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