Gibson leading the way for Bulls in make-up with Pacers

Gibson leading the way for Bulls in make-up with Pacers
February 4, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Mark Strotman

When Gar Forman and John Paxson agreed with forward Taj Gibson to a four-year, $32 million deal, the expectation was that the 26-year-old Gibson eventually would start in the Bulls’ lineup.

The reserve’s per-48-minute numbers had always been solid but with the Bulls signing Carlos Boozer to a five-year deal prior to Gibson’s sophomore season, Gibson has been relegated to reserve duties in all but 93 of his 272 career games.

But with Boozer nursing a hamstring injury and the Bulls likely to be cautious with Joakim Noah’s plantar fascicitis, Gibson will once again be in the starting lineup when the Bulls play their make-up game with the Pacers tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 5:00 with Chicago Tribune Live.

In the last three games (all starts), Gibson is averaging 16.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in 42.4 minutes. His only other start of the year – Jan. 2 in Orlando – he went for 21 points and 11 rebounds. It’s only a small sample size of what Gibson is capable of when playing heavy minutes but, more importantly, it is helping the Bulls win games. Chicago is 2-1 in that span, with road wins over Milwaukee and Atlanta and a loss in Brooklyn sandwiched in between.

Things won’t get any easier on the interior for Gibson, who will go up tonight against one of the better groups in the NBA. Power forward David West has enjoyed a resurgence in Year 2 with the Pacers, averaging 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds, and while center Roy Hibbert – who was given a restricted free agent max contract by the Pacers this offseason – has struggled this year, he has averaged 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over the last nine games.

Gibson was scoreless in 21 minutes off the bench in the Bulls’ Dec. 4 home win over Indiana, but he’ll need to be more efficient with Noah and (potentially) Boozer out. A snowstorm kept Chicago from making it to Indiana on Dec. 26 – when this game originally was supposed to be played – but Weather.com has Indianapolis at 35 degrees today, so the two teams should be able to get this one in.

Make sure to tune into Comcast SportsNet to hear Neil and Stacey, and check out Bulls Pulse throughout the night to stay up-to-date with everything social media.