The Chicago Bulls got off to the worst start possible as the Washington Wizards began game four on a blistering 17-2 run. With the starters struggling, Taj Gibson came off the bench to score eight points in the first quarter and give the Bulls some life. But Chicago was never able to recover and is now on the brink of elimination following their 98-89 loss.
“They come out and always hit us first,” said Gibson who finished with a career high 32 points. “Like Thibs [Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau] said these games are like a 15-round slugfest. But for it to go that far you have to have a good start. You have to hit them first, especially on the road. It’s a hostile environment and they got the crowd into it very early. We were on our heels from the jump. “
While Gibson shot 8-for-8 in the first half his teammates combined to shoot 7-of-32 from the field. The Bulls were able to rely on Mike Dunleavy’s 35 points in Game 3, but the Wizards made sure there would be no repeat of that performance holding the 11-year pro to just six on points on 3-of-8 shooting.
“Yes. There was more of alertness,” said Dunleavy. “Look, it was tough getting shots all through the night. It has been tough all series.”
Led by Gibson the Bulls outscored the Wizards 27-16 in the fourth quarter, but were never able to cut the lead to fewer than 10 points.
Gibson scored 12 points in that final frame but following the game he didn’t take any solace in his career night.
“I don’t really look at the points or anything like that,” said Gibson. “It comes down to looking at W’s and L’s, wins and losses. That game, it’s behind me. Got to move on to the next one. “
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau blamed himself for not having the Bulls prepared at the start of game four. Chicago has struggled with consistency all season long. But Thibodeau knows he can count on his sixth-man every single game.
“He’s great with preparation,” said Thibodeau on Gibson. “You walk into the ball-room for an early walk through and he’s already got his work done. You can see his concentration there and his readiness to play. At practice he’s there early and stays late. So it’s not surprising that he’s played this way. He does his job and you can count on that guy every single day. “
From the season ending injury to Derrick Rose to the trading of Luol Deng, this Bulls team has dealt with adversity all season long. Despite being one game away from elimination they feel this series is far from over.
“It’s all about the quickest to four,” said Gibson. “We had Brooklyn down 3-1 (in last years playoffs) and they fought back (to take the series to a deciding seventh game). We’ve got to have that same mentality. It’s a one game mentality.”