BOSTON, MA--In the Bulls’ search for answers, Fred Hoiberg did one of his last-minute changes that wasn’t actually last-minute, inserting Taj Gibson into the starting lineup in place of Nikola Mirotic.
It didn’t pay dividends in the Bulls’ 105-100 loss Wednesday to the surging Boston Celtics, the team with the best point differential in the Eastern Conference.
Gibson gave the Bulls a temporary boost that wasn’t sustainable, and surprisingly the most consistent frontcourt fourth-quarter player didn’t play much in the last 12 minutes, playing just 35 seconds as the Bulls spent most of the fourth fighting from behind.
His presence, at least to start, seemed to be in direct consult to Jimmy Butler saying the Bulls sometimes aren’t very tough, right on the heels of losing two in a row and getting out-muscled at home against Phoenix.
“I don’t know about all that,” Gibson said. “At times it’s frustrating, but it’s a long season. It’s a new game, we just have to keep playing. As the season goes on, we’ll see. We just gotta go out there and play.”
It was a subject during the morning shootaround, as the Bulls tried to address their inconsistencies, at least with the dreaded label they hope doesn’t stick.
“That our team is sometimes soft? Yeah. It sucks,” said Joakim Noah, repeating the question to make sure he was hearing correctly. “You don’t want to be on a team where you feel like you’re not giving max effort. I feel like it’s deeper than that. We gotta stick together and find our way as a team. It’s not about pointing fingers. Not letting adversity get in the way, we have to stick together through the adversity. I think sometimes the adversity gets the best of us.”
Gibson, very quietly, tried to assert the Bulls’ toughness hadn’t left them over the course of a summer, even as the questions surrounding their mental toughness begin to mount too early in this season.
“I still think we got the rep,” Gibson said. “Maybe not with reporters, but on the court guys still see us as a team that’s got those tough guys.”
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While things are seemingly turning more and more troublesome, as the Bulls’ loss put them No. 8 in the topsy-turvy Eastern Conference, Gibson is still preaching patience.
“Everybody has their philosophies. Just gotta be patient,” he said. “We have a great group of guys. We’re not like everybody else around the league that complains and cries, we just let everything take its course. Guys will do whatever it takes to get it done."