Tom Thibodeau had something on Monday night that he hasn’t had in a very long time: depth. With Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson returning from foot and knee injuries, respectively, the Bulls were nearly at full strength against the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
It wasn’t the best outing for either Bulls big man, but the fact that they were back on the court playing again is so much more important for the team as the postseason nears.
“I thought [Noah and Gibson were] okay. A little winded, a little rusty. Taj seemed to pick up a second wind, so it was good. I thought both guys were very active. It was just good to have some depth, to have some guys you can play up front,” Tom Thibodeau told CSN Chicago after Monday night’s victory.
“Jo basically has missed a lot since the All-Star Break. We sort of managed because Nazr (Mohammed) stepped up and Taj was playing effectively, but then Taj going down forced us to play more small than we wanted to. That’s the real value of Taj and Jo, when teams go small you can stay big, and then you have a rebounding advantage. That’s their strength, their defensive ability. And Taj doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is defensively, but both guys were huge.”
Despite not having Derrick Rose all season and being bitten by the injury bug at the most inopportune times, the Bulls have shown a surprising amount of resiliency. And even on the many nights where they’ve been forced to play shorthanded, the team has been competitive and proved to be a tough out for any opponent.
But going into the playoffs, health – and a favorable matchup – will be key for the Bulls, especially if they’re going to have any chance of advancing past the first round.
“We’ve had guys out for so long and we are a team that has people on this team for certain reasons. This is why our team works,” said Carlos Boozer. “For us, it’s good to see Taj back out there and Jo back out there, and hopefully we’ll go into the playoffs healthy. I just love us healthy. When we’re healthy and we have the whole squad, we’re a dangerous team.”
Indeed they are.
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