The story of the bench, the story of the Bulls and the under-the-radar story of the NBA preseason has been the improvement of Taj Gibson, who has been blowing up every team he faces. Not only has he continued to play stellar defense, he’s turned into a productive scorer.
He scored 18 points on nine shots, grabbed eight boards and blocked four shots.
Normally, when you hear that players worked on their jumper over the season, you shrug them off. When that player hits on 21 of his first 30 shots, playing against three of last year’s top-five defenses (as measured by defensive rating), you perk up and pay attention.
Gibson is averaging 17 points a game off the bench for the Bulls this preseason, and that’s with him already being one of the best defensive power forwards in the league. He’s also led all scorers, from either team, in all three games. He’s led the Bulls in blocks for all three games. He’s also tied for the team-lead in rebounds.
Not just average, mind you, but in each individual game.
If he becomes a viable offensive threat, then Boozer is living on borrowed time. It might not be long before he’s replaced in the starting lineup.
Mike Dunleavy was decent. He hit a couple of threes, made a nice fast-break pass for one of his three assists and grabbed eight rebounds.
As far as the rest of the bench goes, it was a disappointing performance. The backups nearly gave away the lead. Tony Snell continues to have a shot that looks pretty but doesn’t go in. Sooner or later, something has to show up on the scoreboard.
Marquis Teague showed improvement, particularly on defense, but he had a costly turnover that nearly cost them the game and ultimately cost him playing time on the court.
The bench nearly choked away the lead, but Chicago held on to win. And to be fair, having two of the five bench players take the place of starters impacted them as well.