Taj Gibson still confident that the Bulls will be a playoff team come April
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It wasn’t a guarantee from Taj Gibson, but it was close.
Despite dropping a second consecutive game – this time losing to Portland 103-95 on Saturday night – the veteran power forward still believes the Bulls will be in the playoffs come April.
“I’m confident, I’m confident, I’m confident,’’ Gibson said without hesitation. “With the way we’re playing, the amount of injuries we’re playing with, I’m super confident in the way we’re going that we got a real shot. I’m not saying anything is guaranteed, but we got a shot.
“Everybody is one or two losses out of that three seed when you think about it. There’s enough games left to play. A lot of people still have tough schedules. We just gotta win games, but at the same time we gotta hold down the fort until everybody comes back, but we got a shot.’’
It’s that holding down the fort thing that’s been getting a bit tricky lately.
Without Jimmy Butler (left knee), Nikola Mirotic (appendicitis) and Derrick Rose (right hamstring/general soreness), the Bulls fell to 30-28 on the season with the loss, as well as doing all they can to maintain a tight grip on that No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with just 24 regular-season games left.
Not exactly an ideal spot to be in considering the Detroit Pistons are breathing down their neck by just a half game, and the fact that even if the Bulls keep that eighth spot that would mean a first-round match-up with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As far as when help will be on the way? The great unknown, especially with Butler and Mirotic.
“It’s tough,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said of the injury problems. “I’d be lying if I told you differently, but guys are getting an opportunity. We’re playing through Pau [Gasol]. Pau’s doing a great job getting everybody involved.’’
He did more than just get everyone involved Saturday.
Gasol recorded his eighth career triple-double and his first since he was with the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2013, finishing with 22 points, 16 rebounds, and a career-high 14 assists.
A great night for the veteran center, but one that he really couldn’t embrace like he would have liked.
“You try hard, you try to play your best, but when there’s not the reward of the win everything doesn’t taste as good no matter how well you played individually,’’ Gasol said. “We’re in a team sport, so as far as when a team wins everything is good and everyone is happy, but the team loses and it’s kind of hard.’’
And while it was another loss, it was a loss that wasn’t going to keep Hoiberg from sleeping. Unlike in Atlanta on Friday, there was effort, there was ball movement and they were competitive against Portland. They simply looked like a team that was undermanned.
After allowing the Trail Blazers to build a 15-point lead, they cut that deficit to four in the fourth quarter, but could never get the big stop defensively.
“It’s frustrating because you know the character of the guys in here,’’ Gibson said. “It’s just frustrating because we got so many injuries.
“It’s tough. We’re trying to win for Fred, man. He’s a good coach and we’re trying to just push through and get these wins whatever it takes, but it’s tough.’’