Bulls vs Wizards Game 5: Will Taj Gibson finally start?

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The Chicago Bulls’ season is on the line tonight as they host the Washington Wizards in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. But you can’t blame Taj Gibson.

The Bulls trail 3-1 in the series and will need to become the ninth team in NBA postseason history to recover from such a deficit if they want their season to continue.

Many Bulls have struggled in this series- DJ Augustin, their leading scorer in the regular season, is averaging 15.5 points but doing it on horrific 32.3% shooting from the field (including 31.8% from behind the arc).

But starting power forward Carlos Boozer has been pretty bad as well- he is seventh on the Bulls in playoff scoring (9.5 points), while Taj Gibson- his backup- has been setting the world on fire.

Among players who have attempted at least eight shots per game, Taj Gibson leads the entire NBA in playoff field goal percentage (61.7%). He is tied for fifth in blocked shots (2.3) and posting an unbelievable 28.5 PER (15.0 is average).

Gibson’s 19.8 points per game leads the Bulls by a wide margin (Augustin is second on the team in scoring), which begs the question- why isn’t he starting ahead of Boozer?

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Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has started Boozer ahead of Taj Gibson all season, even as Taj Gibson has become more of an offensive threat than Boozer. This wasn’t a problem during the regular season, when the Bulls were winning 48 games- but with their season now over with one more loss, it simply has to change.

In their last two losses, the Bulls have fallen behind by at least 15 points in the first quarter in each game. Boozer’s complete lack of even token effort on the defensive end has played a huge part, as the league’s #1 scoring defense has allowed the Wizards to score 28.3 points on average in the first quarter of this series.

Thibs has to put an end to this immediately, starting tonight. Taj Gibson needs to start and play 40 minutes, while Boozer needs to play only when Gibson and starting center Joakim Noah need a little rest. Give Boozer 15 minutes or so against Washington’s second unit, maybe he can provide some scoring against lesser players.

But start Taj Gibson. Period. End of story.

Don Ellis has been covering sports in high school for the Eddyville (KY) Herald Ledger and the Attica (IN) Ledger Tribune. Other credits include Bulls4Ever.com and InsideHoops (columnist) and ESPN Florida (guest analyst, co-host, SportsCenter anchor). In addition to running Bullsville, he’s currently a Kentucky High School Athletic Association umpire. I have been a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier, Sloan, Love, Walker and Boerwinkle.

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  1. Schaumburg Kenny says:

    Yeah… That didn’t happen. I think that by starting Boozer, Thibs was making a *point* to Bulls Management. Bulls Management was getting annoyed that Thibs was complaining about not having enough offensive options and management went out and got Jimmer Freddette and Thibs doesn’t play him. Boozer was the expensive “offensive piece” Bulls Management has given him and I think Thibs was making a point. Thibs was none too amused when Boozer went public about not playing in the 4th quarter. Let’s just put this out there: Boozer *can* play *some* defense. He just seems to either choose not to or is too tired in games to be *able* to (conditioning?). While his footspeed is woefully slow and he gets winded easily, he does have quick hands, good timing on blocks, is a good rebounder, and has a ton of strength to go with his big body making it hard to back into the post against him for position which is why it’s maddeningly frustrating when he doesn’t make consistent use of two of the four only somewhat decent defensive skills he has (steals and blocks). I noticed a couple of times in the last half dozen games the Bulls played, that Carlos Boozer was tired and racked up some lazy fouls in the third quarter. In two particular games I can recall, he got to five fouls with only a few minutes in the quarter left to play. He looked anxiously to the sideline for Thibs to mercifully remove his exhausted body and it was as if Thibs was like: “No. You stay in and play. I’m not putting you in in the fourth quarter anyway. If you foul out so be it…” I suspect Thibs was trying to “expose” Boozer shortcomings to Bulls Management maybe in hopes the Bulls will amnesty him and get a few decent players at that same cost. Ones that Thibs will actually *like* better (and play). Problem is, Bulls Management don’t make that kind of financial call. That would be owner Jerry Reinsdorf who’s already come out on record saying why amnesty Boozer and pay him his full salary just to motivate him to go play for Miami or Indy for minimum *against* the Bulls. As there’s a 70/30 chance Mirotic is not coming until 2015 due to contract buyout issues, unless an absolute stud Power Forward falls to the Bulls in the draft or a trade scenario falls in their lap (like Brandon Bass [6.9 mil in 2014/15 left on his contract] of the Boston Celtics), the Bulls might as well just keep him on the bench for extra scoring punch against second tier players. At this point, perhaps the best case scenario is: Boozer is so frustrated, he asks for a buyout. Now, that, I could see Reinsdorf considering. I just don’t know how buyouts affect the salary cap. I imagine the Bulls would be on the salary cap hook for whatever they pay him in that 2014/15 buyout, so if he took 9 million to go away and amnestying him would give them approximately 10 million in available cap space, that would be a virtual wash and the Bulls would be looking at major tax penalties going into 2015 with no talent upgrade to show for it. I guess Reinsdorf would have to weigh that very carefully.

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