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updated: 2/11/2014 11:15 PM

Gibson, Bulls start strong in win over Hawks

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  • The Bulls' Taj Gibson, left, passes the ball to Kirk Hinrich as the Hawks Gustavo Ayon goes for the steal Tuesday night at the United Center.

    The Bulls' Taj Gibson, left, passes the ball to Kirk Hinrich as the Hawks Gustavo Ayon goes for the steal Tuesday night at the United Center.
    Associated Press


While the Bulls were out on the West Coast last week, Carlos Boozer complained about not getting many minutes in the fourth quarter.

Maybe the first quarter should be the next topic of discussion.

The Bulls began Tuesday as the NBA's lowest-scoring team at 92.1 points per game, but they have shown signs of life.

On Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers, they scored a season-high 34 points in the first quarter. Back at the United Center two nights later, they posted 33 points in the opening quarter against Atlanta.

One common denominator was easy to spot. Taj Gibson, starting his third straight game in place of Boozer (left-calf strain), got off to another fast start and helped set the tone for a 100-85 victory over the Hawks.

Gibson finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, hitting 12 of 19 shots from the field. Joakim Noah, meanwhile, collected his fourth career triple-double, piling up 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists.

"It's given us balance, because it's a guy you can throw the ball into," coach Tom Thibodeau said of Gibson in the starting lineup. "So you're not staying strictly on the perimeter. Then we're getting good dribble penetration off the pick and roll. Joakim is making a lot of great plays, quick decisions."

In eight games as a starter this season, Gibson has averaged 19.3 points and 9.8 rebounds, while shooting close to 50 percent from the field. Those numbers are inflated slightly because Gibson plays so many minutes when Boozer isn't available -- 46 on Tuesday -- but the stats tell an impressive story.

"Taj has been very, very good and he's got a good mix of his post game, duck-ins, offensive rebounding, the face up, the pick and roll," Thibodeau said. "So he's scoring a lot of different ways, and I think he's doing a great job of reading defense now. He knows what he's trying to get to."

After the game, Gibson kept up his recent theme of enjoying the chance to play basketball in the NBA, whether he's starting, scoring or cheering from the bench.

"I'm just having fun. I don't really care about all that stuff," he said. "I'm having fun doing what my teammates need me to do. I never really look at scoring. I look at just doing whatever it takes to help my team win games. If I score, I score. If I get defensive stops, that's big. That helps us win games. Whatever it takes to win games."

Asked if it will be tough to adjust if he's asked to return to a bench role, Gibson appreciated both sides of the situation.

"You can set the tone right away, instead of just sitting on the bench getting cold," he said of a starting role. "But I can adapt. I'll adapt to whatever the coach gives me, tells me to do. That's part of being a pro. Just do your job and be happy to be in the NBA.

"At times, I like (coming off the bench), really. You've got to figure out your routine, figure out what gets you going, and I think I kind of figured it out this year. If I'm having a rough streak, I know what I can do to get myself going, and that's big."

Gibson said he talked to Nate Robinson last season about what it takes to be a solid bench contributor. He's figuring it out, but with the Bulls' offense humming in the first quarter recently, there may be no need for Gibson to switch roles again.

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