INDIANAPOLIS—Taj Gibson didn’t pull any punches about the game he said he expected to be a “slugfest” heading into it and lived up to its billing.
The Bulls’ sixth man fouled out of Friday night’s 91-79 loss to the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, picking up his fifth and sixth fouls in short succession midway through the fourth quarter. While it’s easy to say that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau should have removed Gibson from the contest after he was whistled for his fifth foul, the power forward himself saw his disqualification as symptomatic of the entire evening, not to mention the opponent.
“Yeah, because there’s a lot of floppers,” Gibson responded when asked if the nature of the game’s officiating affected the way he played. “There was a lot of flopping and once that happens, it kind of makes you think, because of the way they were calling the game, you don’t want to get another ticky-tack foul. There were a lot of ticky-tack fouls. I don’t know. I just tried to be aggressive.
“It’s like you don’t know which one flopping is. Then there’s kind of tough calls. You’ve got to play through all the calls. You’ve got to just keep going through it and look forward to the next game,” he went on to say. “I was just pissed. It’s a physical game and a lot of the calls were not like that, what you think it’s going to be. Bodies are banging, guys are flying around. It was kind of chippy calls. But they did a great job. Even though the calls didn’t go our way, we couldn’t get the ball in the basket. It was just frustrating.
“I felt like a couple calls didn’t go our way and it kind of took our momentum.”
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The affable Gibson, while he will often quickly debate what he believes to be a questionable call, was more visibly angered than usual, spending the timeout after he fouled of the game to demonstratively argue with a referee before being restrained and being assessed a technical foul. But while he was the most obvious example of the Bulls’ frustration about the team’s 25-18 foul discrepancy, Gibson wasn’t the only member of the squad to express concern.
“Yeah, it’s part of the game. It’s going to be a physical game. I’ve got to get a look at the film,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said, clearly biting his tongue.
Thibodeau, however, didn’t pin the loss on officiating.
“Well, you’ve got to give them credit. It’s going to be hard fought. Shots are going to sometimes go; sometimes they’re not,” he explained. “The rebounding was the big concern, so we’ve got to correct that. You’re not going to win on the road without rebounding. You’ve got to defend, you’ve got to rebound and you’ve got to take care of the ball, so if you’re short in one of those areas, you’re putting yourself in a lot of trouble and that’s what we did. So we didn’t rebound, we weren’t tough enough. You’ve got to be tough.”
Bulls’ All-Star center Joakim Noah echoed: “It usually doesn’t have to do with that for games like this. Just mentally, you have to be really strong and put your head down, and let plays linger. When things aren’t going our way, we’ve just got to move on, fast. They outplayed us tonight. We’ll be back.”
Not adjusting to the whistle on a particular evening is one thing, but being on the wrong side of the toughness quotient is another, especially for the Bulls, no matter the opponent. With a rematch Monday against the Pacers at the United Center, expect the two blue-collar teams to ramp up the physicality even further.