Led by Asik, reserves take it to Raptors
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Toronto Raptors center Andrea Bargnani tries to shoot over Bulls center Omer Asik. Asik had a career-high 13 points and seven rebounds.
Bulls center Omer Asik has refused to talk to the media on the record this season, citing unfamiliarity with the English language.
On Tuesday, he was one of the first players to depart the locker room.
So it was up to his teammates to talk about Asik's best performance in the NBA -- 13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in a 111-91 victory over the Toronto Raptors at the United Center.
Taj Gibson, whose locker sits next to Asik's, offered limited praise for the 7-footer from Turkey. Gibson mentioned how it's time Asik stopped shirking his rookie duties.
"I know he better start getting doughnuts," Gibson said with a laugh. "Guys are really talking day by day about what we're going to do to him. We're going to get him eventually.
"He's not getting doughnuts, he's not washing cars. He's not doing a lot of things me and J.J. (James Johnson) were doing last year."
On the other side of the locker room, Ronnie Brewer pointed out that Asik has adjusted to life in America better than he lets on.
"He's a really good dude, really funny," Brewer said. "He picks up on a lot of stuff quickly. Our team, we've got a lot of jokesters -- Keith (Bogans), Kurt (Thomas) and C.J. (Watson). Sometimes he slides some jokes in about guys, what they've got on and different things. So it's pretty funny coming from him because he's so quiet."
While the Bulls (23-10) won for the 14th time in 16 games, forward Luol Deng was the top scorer with 24 points. But this victory belong to the reserves.
It looked as though the Bulls could be in for a fight to the finish after Toronto trimmed a 24-point deficit to 81-71 when Andrea Bargnani (23 points) opened the fourth quarter with a driving lay-in.
But the subs launched a 17-5 run to boost the lead back beyond 20, allowing Derrick Rose (19 points) and Carlos Boozer (12 points, 13 rebounds) to rest for the entire fourth quarter. The Bulls play again today at New Jersey.
Gibson hit a slump after suffering a concussion on Dec. 18. He was back to his old self against the Raptors, knocking down several jumpers on the way to 16 points and 14 rebounds.
"In practice, it feels better and better," Gibson said. "It's a long season and I'm just trying to take my time. I understand my minutes aren't what they used to be, but I'm just bringing energy any way I can."
Brewer added 12 points, while Watson finished with 5 points, 5 assists and 3 steals. The Bulls outscored Toronto 60-36 in the second and fourth quarters, when the reserves typically take the floor.
"It's part of the NBA," Brewer said. "Some games you're going to be able to score a lot. Some games you're going to be able to just maintain. Tonight we were able to push the lead and put some pressure on them."
The return of Gibson was a welcome sight. He played so well starting in place of the injured Carlos Boozer early this season but averaged just 3.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in six games since suffering the concussion.
"He's put a lot of extra time in," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You could see his confidence coming around. I've seen it the past few days in practice, too. I think when he practices well, he plays well."
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