With just 15 regular-season games left, style points are out the window.
The Bulls continued to make sure of that on Thursday.
As they’ve done far too often this season, in a game in which they were expected to play the role of bully, they instead found themselves trying to survive a 19-win Brooklyn Nets team.
Just another reminder that very little comes easy for this team.
Thanks to 25 points from Doug McDermott, as well as Jimmy Butler’s 22 points, the Bulls picked it up late to beat Brooklyn, 118-102, at the United Center. A solid win after a back-to-back, but considering they held a 24-point lead at one point, not exactly flexing their playoff muscles here in mid-March.
“A lack of urgency coming out of the gate in the second half,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said of a third quarter in which they allowed the Nets to score 37 points. “Didn’t have that edge. It was both ends.
“We got it back a little bit. Our whole bench gave us really good minutes.’’
The win did move the Bulls to 34-33 on the season, giving them the 1/2-game edge over idle Detroit for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff seedings.
But lost in all the talk of making a run into the playoffs was Taj Gibson once again showing that “Brooklyn tough’’ just might have a little bit more staying power than “Chicago tough.’’
Despite having to leave the game during the Wednesday loss in Washington with a right hamstring that’s been grabbing at him for weeks, Gibson decided that with all that was at stake he would go ahead and put his health aside for the betterment of his team.
He decided not to listen to his body.
“Understand that the playoff race is close,’’ Gibson said. “We’re going to need everybody. I feel something positive coming. … but just trying to be there for the guys.’’
An act that didn’t go unnoticed by teammates or his coach.
“Taj is a warrior,’’ Fred Hoiberg said. “There’s no doubt about that. He’s hurting with this hamstring. He wanted to continue to play [Wednesday] night but it just wasn’t smart to keep him in there the way he felt.
“Is it recognized? Sure it is. He’s a guy who is doing everything he can to help get us to the playoffs.’’
Basically, the antithesis of the Derrick Rose attitude.
Rose has stated on several occasions the past few weeks that if his body wasn’t right he would sit, no matter what the circumstances – regular season or playoffs.
And while Gibson scored just 12 points and grabbed six rebounds, considering the frontcourt was without Joakim Noah (season-ending shoulder surgery) and Pau Gasol (right knee), it was an important moment for a team searching for something to build on.
Especially with Gibson guarding the Nets’ Brook Lopez and helping hold him to just nine points. Lopez was averaging 20.8 per game.
“Taj knows how important he is to this team, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench,’’ Butler said after the win. “That’s big for us because when you see a guy doing that, that just shows how tough he is. If you can go then you go. If you can’t you can’t. But Taj is like, ‘Yo, I’m going.’ Respect him.
“This would have been a tough win [to get] without him.’’