Trans. Apr 18 2:42 ET (Apr 18 2:42 ET ) Taj Gibson flashed back to the grueling workouts in the searing Southern California heat last summer. There he was with Derrick Rose, running and jumping and trying to take his game to another level for the Chicago Bulls while their superstar point guard worked his way back from a left knee injury. It was intense,'' Gibson said. The Bulls won 48 games to grab the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and homecourt advantage in their first-round series against the Washington Wizards despite some big obstacles.
Taj Gibson flashed back to the grueling workouts in the searing Southern California heat last summer. There he was with Derrick Rose, running and jumping and trying to take his game to another level for the Chicago Bulls while their superstar point guard worked his way back from a left knee injury. ''It was intense,'' Gibson said. The Bulls won 48 games to grab the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and homecourt advantage in their first-round series against the Washington Wizards despite some big obstacles.
Bouncing back from a disappointing loss the previous evening, the Bulls (48-33) coasted past the Magic (23-58), 108-95, Monday night at the United Center, placing six players in double figures. The Bulls went on an early 12-0 run to build a double-digit lead behind the frontcourt trio of Carlos Boozer (13 points, 12 rebounds, five assists), Mike Dunleavy Jr. (22 points, five rebounds) and All-Star center Joakim Noah (18 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists). However, the depleted Magic, who were missing starters Jameer Nelson and Nikola Vucevic, battled back to close the gap as the opening period went on, propelled by rookie guard Victor Oladipo and second-year big man Kyle O’Quinn (20 points, seven rebounds).
[MORE: Bulls not concerned with playoff positioning ] Without D.J. Augustin in the lineup — the backup point guard missed the game because his wife gave birth to their son earlier Monday — fan favorite Jimmer Fredette (17 points) was Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau’s first substitution of the evening. Despite Boozer’s double-figure stanza, Orlando, which also got a boost from reserve forward Andrew Nicholson (19 points), would make it a close-knit affair by the conclusion of the first quarter, at which point the Bulls were clinging to a tenuous 25-21 advantage, following a Dunleavy three-pointer.
Gradually, the Bulls extended their lead to double digits again, led by sixth man Taj Gibson (eight points, six rebounds, two blocked shots), rookie swingman Tony Snell (13 points) and Fredette’s solid play at the point. While the Magic starting backcourt duo of Oladipo and veteran Arron Afflalo was effective, so was the quartet of Noah, Snell, swingman Jimmy Butler (12 points) and Boozer — who made a rare second-quarter appearance when Gibson got into foul trouble, resulting in a first-half double-double — and at the intermission, the Bulls led, 57-44, after a Snell jumper at the halftime buzzer.
[ALSO: Jimmer shines in absence of Augustin ] After the break, the Magic trimmed the deficit, as the Bulls struggled offensively in the third quarter, allowing the visitors to cut it to as little as a three-point gap. But the Bulls rallied to create some separation and heading into the final stanza, they held an 81-70 lead, behind Noah’s typically stellar all-around play and Dunleavy’s outside shooting. The fourth quarter consisted of a personal showcase for Fredette, as the Bulls were able to maintain their comfortable winning margin. The extended garbage time allowed Ronnie Brewer to play in the game’s final two minutes, the regular-season home finale.
- Aggrey Sam, CSN Chicago
NEW YORK It was an opportunity to stay ahead of the Toronto Raptors and stay safely in the third seed in the Eastern Conference. That did not happen, though, with a loss to the Knicks and a victory for the Raptors earlier in the day. The Bulls dropped back into fourth in the East and set themselves up for a potentially tougher opponent in the postseason. We had a chance to really lock the third seed in with this win and keep pushing, Taj Gibson said after the loss.