Taj Gibson being thrust into the starting lineup against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night will hopefully be the jolt that shakes the big man out of the season-long funk he seemed to be stuck in.
His numbers are down slightly from where they’ve been in previous seasons, but even without looking at the statistics, it’s easy to see that Gibson hasn’t been performing at the level at which fans have become accustomed.
It’s hard to tell whether the decline in his play is mental (pressure of a new contract) or physical (Gibson has been slowed of late by a nagging injury to his ankle), but his 21 points and 11 rebounds in a game where Joakim Noah had to sit out due to illness, served as a reminder for those who may have forgotten of what he’s actually capable.
"Taj probably saw an opportunity tonight and played well," said teammate Luol Deng to CSN Chicago after the Bulls 96-94 victory over the Magic. "We know how good Taj is and we definitely miss Jo, and last game, we lost when he was sick. He’s huge for us, but Taj did a good job of stepping in and making really big plays tonight."
One of those big plays was a key block on Magic guard Jameer Nelson who drove for a layup late in the game, a play which would have knotted the score had Gibson not swatted the shot into the seventh row.
"I thought Jameer was going to make that layup. I was just being active and just trying to talk to my point guard, and help him any way that I can," said Gibson on his big block.
Carlos Boozer, who had a big game in his own right with 31 points and 11 rebounds, also complimented Gibson on his play and just how big he was on Wednesday night.
"We’re down. We’ve been short-handed all season, but this game we had without Joakim," said Boozer. "But I thought Taj had a monster game, man. We had guys step up left and right."
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