The Bulls put forth arguably their most complete performance of the season last night, beating the Celtics 100-89 at the United Center. The first play of the game was indicative of how the rest of the night was going to go, with Joakim Noah finding Carlos Boozer on a backcut for a layup. The Bulls' ball movement and cutting off the ball was the best it's been all season, and with Noah willing and able to consistently find the open man, they were able to carve up a rather poor Celtics defense.
There were contributions aplenty, with Boozer and Luol Deng both scoring 21 points (although Boozer was a -10, heh) and Nate Robinson going ham in the fourth quarter to blow the game open. But I thought one of the more impressive efforts of the night came from Taj Gibson. The big man scored a season-high 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while also notching five rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes of action.
And he did most of this on essentially one leg.
Soon after Gibson entered the game, he seemingly tweaked his right ankle and was noticeably hobbled. There were times where it looked like he could barely get up and down the court, and it initially appeared like we had another #FredClearedHim situation on our hands.
But despite the very easy-to-spot limp, Gibson played a hell of a game. He was knocking down jumpers (he went 3-of-5 on long twos), going hard in the post, diving for loose balls and playing his normal elite level defense. One possession toward the end of the game, Gibson found himself in isolation against Rajon Rondo, and forced Rondo into a tough missed layup. It was vintage Taj, who truly is one of the NBA's best at defending isolation. According to Synergy, Gibson is giving up 0.42 points per play in isolation situations. Ridiculous.
After the game Gibson talked about the injury. First, about how it happened (via CSN Chicago):
"I just pushed off and re-aggravated it from the playoffs last year. It's been nagging me, but I just kept playing and had to hurry up and ice it down," Gibson said about the injury. "It was just one of those plays. I tried to plant and I just re-aggravated my ankle, that's all."
"I'm pretty confident I'll be fine. Knowing me and knowing the way Thibs and our training staff work on things, I should be fine," he said. "It's the Garden. I can't miss that."
It should be noted that when Thibs spoke about the injury, he once again went to the line of "the player said it was fine, so it was okay to play him." That, as long noted on this site by many different people, is pretty absurd. On most occasions, the player is going to tell the coach that they're okay and they want to play. We've seen it happen numerous times over the past few seasons on this team. Luckily, it seems in this situation that it was okay for Gibson to play through it. But that entire mindset is out of wack.
Anyway, Gibson has been a menace on defense all season long, but we haven't really seen much of the improved offensive game that we heard about in the offseason. We did see some of it last night, and hopefully Taj is truly okay so he can build off this excellent performance.