And he stays helping beat LeBron
Taj Gibson remains just the best. When looking up his highlights from last night, the first result that came up was another big line of his…against the Cavs this preseason. Some of it may be the rivalry, or facing a team that usually goes with small lineups, but Taj has always given it to the East’s (LeBron’s) best over the years.
Here’s Taj’s baskets from last night, a 9/13 performance where he started the game hitting his first 8 shots.
Rajon Rondo deserves some credit for Taj’s night as well. Of Rondo’s 12 assists last night, 5 went to Taj (here’s a nice one in particular), who was doing work early in possessions to carve out space down low.
Gibson had a season-high 5 assists himself, including this key one where he returned the favor to Rondo.
At age 31, Taj Gibson is having his best season ever, with career-high marks in True Shooting Percentage and Assist Percentage buoying a 17.7 PER. There doesn’t appear to be any outlier in his shooting or anything, just the kind of modest improvement in his game that he always seems to gain being one of the hardest workers on the team. It’s undoubtedly helped that he hasn’t had his annual ankle-roll yet, too.
Gibson’s also at his career-high in minutes per game at just over 29 (season-high 39 last night), not only functioning as the starting PF but being used very necessarily as the backup center whenever possible. Fred Hoiberg deserves kudos for this: prior to the season, when it was all but expected that Mirotic would be gifted the starting role due to fit, Hoiberg insisted it’d be an open competition. And after Taj won that battle going away, he’s been being rewarded with as big a role as ever.
And it’s helped mold the Bulls winning formula. Score inside, absolutely demolish teams on the glass. Gibson’s individual rebounding numbers are actually not that spectacular, but the team is crushing on the offensive glass when he’s on the floor.
It should be mentioned that Gibson is in a contract year, hitting unrestricted free agency after the season. Taj has never needed extra motivation, but if this year means more to him it’s certainly showing. You would’ve thought given his age that this could be a year he transitions off the team, but instead he’s been a pillar that dictates their style of play.
Final note: I was going to riff on how Taj is seemingly the best player in the NBA when he’s facing LeBron-helmed teams. But his numbers are pretty much in line with career averages. You can’t isolate stats for soul-destroying dunks though!
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