Updated: February 13, 2014 11:24PM
Even though they both line up at power forward, it’s not necessarily a question of Carlos Boozer OR Taj Gibson.
The Bulls showed that on Thursday night when they knocked off the Brooklyn Nets 92-76 at the United Center. They got energetic games from Gibson (16 points) AND Boozer (15 points and 10 rebounds), who returned from a three-game absence due to a calf injury.
``For us to achieve what we want to achieve, Carlos has to play,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ``He has a big role on this team. Carlos is a huge part of our team.’’
Boozer started. He’ll keep doing that because of his scoring. But Gibson got his opportunities. He’ll keep getting them because of his defense and athleticism.
It’s not rocket science. Thibs has three key bigs—Boozer, Gibson and All-Star center Joakim Noah, plus elder statesman Nazr Mohammed. Boozer and Gibson shared the floor for long stretches when Noah took a break.
It isn’t ideal. But little in this season—which began with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng and will end who knows where—has been ideal.
For all their troubles, the Bulls have climbed two games above .500 for the first time since they started the season 6-4 on Nov. 21 with Rose in bloom.
``We play for each other,’’ said Boozer, adding that his calf felt great. ``The great thing about our team is we have good guys who love to compete and step up in tough situations. I just play off Joakim, our point center. He’s a great passer. He has the mindset of a guard.’’
Gibson, who averaged nearly 23 points a game when Boozer was injured, kept it going against the Nets. Mike Dunleavy (14 points), Jimmy Butler (14) and Noah (14 points, 13 rebounds) also were very active.
Noah also kept Butler from getting into a major scuffle with the Nets’ Joe Johnson when they tried to brawl.
``I was just trying to keep the peace. I’m a peace-and-love kind of guy,’’ said Noah, who now heads to New Orleans for the All Star game a bit uneasy about sharing a locker room with rivals. ``It’s going to be weird, awkward and fun all at the same time. It’s an unbelievable honor to be a part of that. I just try to take none of those moments for granted, even those awkward moments.’’
It was a good victory for the Bulls heading into the All-Star break because Brooklyn, which came into Chicago with the best record (14-5) in the East since Jan. 1, is no slouch.
And that’s important because there’s very little separation in the scruffy Eastern Conference behind Indiana and Miami. A little determination could spell the difference between the No. 3 seed and the No. 7 seed—or worse.