Taj Gibson: Bulls Were Out to Avenge Embarrassing Loss More Than to Break the Heat’s Streak

March 29, 2013 – 7:10 am by Eric Schmoldt
Wednesday’s game between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat will long be remembered as the game that halted the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. The way Taj Gibson describes it in this interview, however, was that the Bulls were out to avenge an 86-67 loss to the Heat on Feb. 21 as much or more than they were to end Miami’s run.

Taj Gibson joined ESPN Chicago with Carmen and Jurko to discuss if Chicago’s gameplan was different in order to end the Heat’s streak, a controversial play involving LeBron James, where ending the winning streak ranks in terms of regular-season accomplishments, the Bulls’ odds in the playoffs and the potential of Derrick Rose’s return this season.
Was there anything different about the gameplan given that you were trying to end the Heat’s streak?:

“Not really, we just went out and played our normal style of basketball. We just got back to the basics. We’re normally a real dominant rebounding team. We try to help each other on defense. One thing we just did is play a little bit harder, because they really embarrassed us the last time they played in Chicago, and we really didn’t like the way they were celebrating. So we just came out and put forth more effort and guys stepped up.”

When you hit your big shot over Shane Battier, did you feel like, “We’ve got this?”:

“Well, not really. Even though we made tough shots, that team is always one of those teams that keeps fighting, especially late. We went from having like almost a nine-point lead to it was 94-89. I was like, here we go again. … But we handled ourselves well. We’ve got guys that can really step up late.”

LeBron said you collared him. Did you?:
“I didn’t try to collar him, I just fouled him. It wasn’t intentionally. I was just trying to make a play on the ball, but I fouled him. … I was really trying to grab him, just trying to hold him up. Nobody’s intentionally trying to hurt anybody out there. When he said those comments, I was really shocked, but it’s part of the game I guess. … You can’t expect the game to be so lightly taken after you just blew us out by 20 the last time we played you guys.”

As far as regular-season accomplishments go, where does ending their streak rank?:

“It’s pretty big. It’s history, but at the same time, it’s a bigger picture. We’re still trying to get guys back healthy. We’re trying to get ourselves in a good groove going late, trying to make a nice playoff run. … We never even want to let a team come and blow us out the way they did last game. We just responded well.”

Nobody seems to know what to expect of the Bulls in the playoffs. What do you expect?:

“I think we have a good shot. I just think you never really know in the playoffs. It’s all about matchups, all about key guys being ready at the right times. Looking at how we fare against the East, I think our chances will be real high.”

Is Derrick Rose going to play this year?:

“It depends on how he’s feeling. Derrick works his tail off every day. I know, slowly but surely, he’ll probably get back out there, because I know what kind of player, what kind of person he is. … It’s all about how he feels.”

So you guys aren’t getting impatient waiting for his return?:

“Not at all, because we have to just do our job, whoever is out there. … Guys just step up and do the job. That’s the way our team’s been for the last three years, and nothing’s going to change.”

At any point leading up to the game against the Heat, did Tom Thibodeau or the team acknowledge that it wasn’t just any regular-season game?:

“Not really. He didn’t ever say it. He just always says you can’t go around that team, you have to go through them. … He said [the blowout] was his fault. He took the blame because he said he didn’t get us ready. He just said, ‘Don’t worry about the record. It’s all about what we believe in our locker room.’”

Listen to Taj Gibson on ESPN Chicago here

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