Rise of Taj: Big game sparked by Tim Floyd?

Rise of Taj: Big game sparked by Tim Floyd?
November 20, 2010, 5:25 am
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Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010
Updated 2:22 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

DALLAS Talk about redemption.

After two miserable outings in a row, Taj Gibson propelled the Bulls to an 88-83 victory over the Mavericks with a 17-point, 18-rebound effort, while backup point guard C.J. Watson emerged with a breakout night off the bench, including several clutch second-half shots.

It feels good, it feels real good. It just shows we have a solid team with a bunch of solid players from the point all the way to the top, Gibson told CSNChicago.com. Were a good team.

We came and fought. We had a chance to win the Spurs game, but we let it slip, chimed in Derrick Rose. Tonight, it was almost the same thing, but we adjusted to it and made a nice comeback.

Chicago made a concerted effort to get the ball into the slumping Gibson in the post in the early going and after traveling on the Bulls first trip, the second-year forward converted his next two shots.

Rose was also aggressive in the early going his ever-burgeoning confidence in his perimeter shot is becoming a broken record at this point aiding the visitors in gaining an early advantage.

It just shows how much high regard the coaching staff has in himI can do a lot of different things. I can put it on the floor, I can post, shoot. Coach Thibodeau told me, Just dont rely on your jump shot, the 15-footer. He said, Even though youve been working on it and its been great so far, dont just fall in love with it and that was my goal, Gibson told CSNChicago.com. I was going to try to do other things, get on the glass like Coach Tim Floyd (the former Bulls head coach and Gibsons college coach at USC) said. He told me, If things arent going your way, get it off the glass. That was one of the main things I wanted to do coming in tonights game and Coach just went to me early in the post.

Gibsons confidence back intact, his offensive output was key for the Bulls initially although he had his hands full with Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki on the defensive end until picking up his second foul midway through the first period. The home-standing Mavericks would cut the deficit a bit, but both teams proceeded to settle for outside jumpers, with accuracy a rare commodity.

The score would remain 17-13 for approximately three minutes of action, as each squad was woefully offensively inept and stagnant. Chicago led, 19-13, after a quarter of play, following a Joakim Noah putback at the buzzer originally ruled good on the court apparently being waved off by the officials.

Scoring on both ends increased immediately in the second quarter, as better ball movement facilitated easy opportunities. Reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer was the beneficiary of sharp passes by Noah and sharpshooter Kyle Korver two underrated passers; Noah would also find Rose for a lefty reserve layup on a backdoor cut, on which the third-year point guard exhibited his usual tremendous body control and Chicagos cohesive play led to a Dallas timeout in an attempt to stem the tide.

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisles adjustments worked some of Dallas improved play could be attributed to their deep bench; superior reserves with fresh legs always helps as the Bulls were on the wrong end of an 8-1 run, leading to a subsequent timeout called by Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau to quell the flurry.

In a bit of symmetry, a mostly-reserve unit got it going for the Bulls, with Korver, C.J. Watson and a still-aggressive Gibson reeling off three straight baskets, prompting Carlisle to call for a 20-second refocusing session.

C.J. came in and really played well for us, Kyle was very good and we had a lot of guys do good things, said Thibodeau. Theyre Chicagos bench getting more comfortable, theyre playing well, it gives us a chance to rest people and were getting a different guy to step up every night. On the road like this, its important. Im confident in our bench. We have a very good bench.

Watson, in one of his better stretches of the season, was a catalyst for Chicago, whose bench held up their end of the bargain in maintaining the Bulls slight cushion toward the end of the half, at which the Bulls took a 39-35 lead into the locker room.

As in their previous outing against San Antonio, the Bulls permitted their opponent to get off to a quick start in the third quarter, with their slim winning margin evaporating almost instantly. Dallas slowly built their own semi-comfortable lead assisted by Chicagos inefficient offense by going on a 15-2 run after halftime.

We started out the game great. We came in at halftime, the main focus was starting the third quarter the first five minutes and punching them in their mouth. But in the NBA, youre going to get knocked back on your heels and they did that right in the third, recounted Gibson to CSNChicago.com.

Then Coach said, Dont worry. Youve been in this situation before. Dont panic. Just stay the same course. We got back in it. The fourth quarter was our big chance. We understood that everybody had to play a solid game in the fourth and we just brought a defensive intensity and we got stops.

Nowitzki would put his stamp on the game with 12 points in the early portion of the third quarter, but far bigger culprits for the Bulls were careless turnovers and forced, errant outside jumpers, leading to a double-digit Mavericks lead. The Bulls would quietly go on an 8-0 spurt of their own to get back within striking distance, with a more determined offensive mindframe to get into the lane.

Noahs hustle the fourth-year center would keep several loose balls alive, make a living on the offensive glass and finish with authority and Roses swashbuckling drives to the rim led Chicagos push to get back into the contest. By the end of the period, the Bulls trailed by a much more manageable 59-56.

I felt like our energy was kind of low and sometimes when youre playing in the game and youre feeling routine in the game weve got to be gritty in the game, were a 48-minute team, said Noah. When we started the third quarter, our energy level was low; I just tried to bring energy.

Im just trying to affect the game the best way that I can. Im not really happy with the way I was playing the last two, three games and I think its important that when Im out there that I give 150 percent, he continued. I just cant go through the motions. I just have to keep going after the ball every time.

When he plays high energy like that and really goes after the ball, to me, there might not be a better guy in terms of activity. Taj has 18 rebounds, Jo has 17 you can win the game with your rebounding, said Thibodeau about Noah. He made some good plays. He had five assists, he was in motion, he was sprinting into pick-and-rolls. When were holding onto the ball and were standing and were watching guys go one-on-one, thats not us; we cant score like that. For us, its got to be guys moving, the ball has to move, the players have to move, we have to play high energy. Thats Jos strength.

A rapid scoring explosion by the red-hot Nowizki to start the fourth quarter allowed the Mavericks to create some separation between them and their guests from the Windy City.

However, in this my turn-your turn affair, the Bulls would methodically turn a seven-point deficit into a two-point lead midway through the final stanza a Watson triple was the go-ahead basket despite Rose having to leave the game twice to tend to a bleeding cut on the bridge of his nose suffered when he was raked across the face by Nowitzki on a driving layup earlier in the period.

Dirk when I went to the basket he hit me right across my nose, said Rose afterwards. At that time, I was angry. I hate coming out of the game in those types of moments, but my teammates came through, made some great plays.

Its kind of deep, but they said I didnt need any stitches. I wasnt going to get them anyway. They would have found a way to get it together, he continued. My swag is a little down right now; you can see. I dont like getting my face touched. Im just mad right nowIm easy on the eye.

The thing about Derrick is, he drives the ball extremely hard. I thought he went a good part of the game where he didnt get to the line at all, but it didnt discourage him; he kept attacking, said Thibodeau. Thats the mark of his greatness, too. He kept going harder and harder, and ultimately, he ends up with nine free throws.

Now it was the Mavericks that were disjointed; the visitors were transformed into a cohesive, aggressive, determined and scrappy bunch that gradually widened their lead by virtue of hustle, an attacking mentality, timely scoring, capitalizing on Dallas miscues and some good fortune. Of course, that didnt last for long in this back-and-forth game, with Dallas quickly knotting the contest up at 74 with four minutes to play.

Chicagos foul difficulties Noah and Gibson, who hit a miracle 3-pointer (his first, at any level of basketball, he would say afterwards) at the end of the shot clock to put the Bulls back ahead after the Mavericks briefly snatched the lead away, in particular were rapidly mounting (a Thibodeau pet peeve, especially in late-game situations, as Dallas was getting free opportunities due to poor body-position defense), but with neither team clearly taking control of the game, it was basically a seize-the-day mentality down the stretch.

I shoot them 3-pointers all the time in practice, but it all comes with confidence, Gibson told CSNChicago.com. I just looked at the shot clock, I just stepped in and just shot it with confidence, and I was lucky to have a good roll and it went in.

A huge Gibson offensive board led to a deep Korver deuce that put the Bulls up, 81-79, with two minutes to play, in what looked to be a pivotal moment. Chicago seemingly got to every loose ball, but after Rose hit two clutch free throws following a hard fall, after which he needed extended time to get off the floor Gibson would foul out on an overexuberant defensive play, ending his bounce-back night at an inopportune time.

Just working through whatever my bodys been telling me. Just working through all the injuries, the foot problem just working through all that staying on top of it and just having heart, Gibson told CSNChicago.com Playing those last few games really affected me because I really felt I let my team down, always relying on the jump shot instead of doing other things rebounding, blocking shots, defense things Im accustomed to doing. Its just one of those things; youve got to learn from it.

A pretty amazing job, the way he played tonight. The rebounding effort, real aggressive to start the game with his post-up, said Thibodeau. I wanted to establish inside and I thought he had gotten into a lot of jump-shooting and were confident in his jump shot, but hes one of our best low-post scorers, so we need to do a better job of getting him the ball in there.

A wild sequence ensued with the Bulls up three Nowitzki split a pair of foul shots and less than a minute to go, as Watson missed a triple, ended up with his own board (Luol Deng kept the ball alive) and was eventually sent flying into Carlisle and over the Mavericks bench by Dallas small forward Caron Butler with 15.3 seconds left. Watson drained both of his free throws and on the next possession, Chicago would get a defensive stop.

We just got Watsons confidence up for this game. Coach told him that he was going to play, he made the right moves in the game, made the right decisions and thats what we need, Rose said of his backup, who was paired with him in the backcourt for much of the games stretch run. Its fun, knowing that I can just sit on the side, watch him run pick-and-roll.

Its fun being away from the ball and catching it with a live dribble, he went on to say. He came in and gave us a lot of energyhe came out and played a complete game.

I thought his defense was good, added Thibodeau about Watson. He allowed us to put the ball in his hands and bring Derrick off some baseline screens, so it was a different look and he hit some big shots.

Obviously it worked pretty well since we won. I just tried to go out there and play ball, and pick up the tempo when I was out there, explained Watson. Im getting a little bit more comfortable each game. Im still trying to get used to Coach and used to his system.

Thats real big, to get minutes in the fourth quarter. It means a lot because hes putting confidence and trust in me, he continued. I believe it CJ and Derrick definitely can work. We proved it tonight.

Rose missed one of two free throws after the inevitable Dallas foul and Mavericks sixth man Jason Terry hit a quick 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game again, 86-83. The Bulls sharpshooter, Korver, knocked down a pair from the charity stripe with six remaining, however, putting the game away for the Bulls.

I thought the defense was very good, I thought the rebounding was outstanding and then we turned the ball over more than we would like. But I also thought we got the ball inside and I thought we were unselfish. If we do those things, were going to be in position to win, concluded Thibodeau. It doesnt change anything for us, other than after the San Antonio game, we wanted to learn from the game and then move forward and get ready for this game. I thought we had a good meeting Thursday, I thought we had a good shootaround today; we made improvement.

Were a team that we fight. Even in San Antonio, I think that we fought hard. Were not going to give up, said Noah. We were resilient tonight. We played real tough. It just feels good to win one of those games, one of those real close games that shows our hard work. We executed down the stretch pretty well. Tajs shot was huge. Kyles corner two-pointer and we got a few stops, and thats the game.

It feels really good. Were just going to enjoy this one and get ready for the Lake Show.

Tonight, we won because of heart, defense, we played hard and a little bit of luck, added Rose. Theres nothing you could say about it the game. Be grateful that we got this win. Next is L.AI think that we finished this little Texas thing kind of good.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.