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?
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.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks