by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
Despite the wins, the last few games for the Chicago Bulls can best be defined as listless performances. But last night against the Toronto Raptors, the Bulls seemed to have finally pulled themselves out of the doldrums and delivered a sound beating to their opponent making the 14th win in their last 16 games easily the most impressive and most complete from a team perspective.
Even Tom Thibodeau couldn’t find a lot of things to complain about. Well, sort of.
“We gave up the lead in the 3rd quarter. That’s not good [laughs]. But the bench was great. In the 2nd quarter and again in the 2nd half, it played with great energy. Their defense was terrific and Omer [Asik] and Taj [Gibson] were great up front. Ronnie [Brewer], CJ [Watson] and Kyle [Korver] executed and they all did a terrific job.”
On most nights, the Bulls have been carried by the play of Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, and Luol Deng. But the bench really showed up and did their part last night against Toronto. While Rose, Boozer and Deng combined to score 55 points, the bench collectively contributed 52 points in the 111-91 victory.
Taj Gibson was given the early assignment of trying to slow down Andrea Bargnani (23 points, 7 rebounds) after it was apparent that his mobility and skills on the perimeter were going to be too much for veteran Kurt Thomas to handle. He led the play of Chicago’s bench as he seemed to finally break out of the offensive funk he’s been in of late dropping 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the game and he’d already registered a double-double by the first half with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Gibson was placed in the starting lineup and played well at the beginning of the season due to the injury to Carlos Boozer. But since Boozer’s return, Gibson’s minutes have dropped and despite an earlier foot injury and most recently, a concussion, his play has mostly been erratic and inconsistent.
But it may have been Bulls legend, Scottie Pippen, who was the most instrumental in Gibson finally breaking out of his slump.
“Pip was on me, early. He’s just been on me saying I have to score the ball. So I’ve been pushing hard in practice and it paid off… I just wanted to come in and bring a lot of energy.”
Bulls rookie big-man Omer Asik also had a great game as he registered 13 points and 7 rebounds and his play was praised by all of his teammates.
“O came in the 2nd half and was dunking everything,” said Carlos Boozer. “Everything he touched it seems like he was dunking the ball. It was fun to watch.”
Said Derrick Rose on the play of Asik, “We told him to be aggressive. He’s a guy where he’ll get fouled if he just goes up. He was going up trying to dunk everything and that’s what we need from him, especially the way he played defense tonight.”
In fact, the only complaint that anyone had of Asik is that he hasn’t taken well to the customary rookie ritual of getting the veterans donuts. Basically, he just hasn’t been doing it.
“I know he better start getting donuts, man! We’re on him,” said Gibson. “Guys have really been talking about him day by day about what we’re going to do to him but we’re going to get him eventually… He’s not getting donuts. He’s not washing cars. He’s not doing a lot of things that me and JJ [James Johnson] was doing last year.”
When asked if the language barrier may have something to do with him not understanding his rookie responsibility, Gibson said matter-of-factly, “He can speak real good English, so don’t let him fool you!”