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updated: 4/27/2014 7:20 PM

It's time for Bulls to give Gibson a start

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  • Bulls forward Taj Gibson drives past the Wizards' Al Harrington on his way to 32 points in 32 minutes off the bench in Sunday's loss at Washington.

      Bulls forward Taj Gibson drives past the Wizards' Al Harrington on his way to 32 points in 32 minutes off the bench in Sunday's loss at Washington.
    Associated Press

 
 

OK, it's time for Tom Thibodeau to let down those thinning locks of his before they're entirely gone.

Before the Bulls are entirely gone, too.

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It's time for the Bulls' head coach to get a little crazy, wear a lampshade on his head and swing from a United Center chandelier.

Seriously, throw caution to the wind. Throw the playbook in the trash can. Yes, throw Taj Gibson into the Bulls' starting lineup.

Easy, coach. Steady now. Sure, sure, change isn't always progress.

But this isn't a request for something drastic. It just acknowledges that the new normal can't be the old normal anymore.

The Wizards beat the Bulls 98-89 on Sunday afternoon in Washington to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven NBA East quarterfinal series.

Now the Wiz can close out the Bulls on Tuesday night in the United Center.

The encouraging news is that the Bulls have two of a potential three remaining games on their home court. The discouraging news is that the Wizards won the series' first two in Chicago.

"That's the toughest game to play," Washington forward Trevor Ariza said of an eliminator. "I expect a lot of intensity, a lot of scrappy play."

Ariza led the Wiz with 30 points after coming out early and connecting on a couple of 3-point shots and just about everything else he attempted.

Gibson was the Bulls' answer with 32 points, except that as usual he started the game on the bench. What Gibson saw from there was Washington take 14-0 and 19-4 leads before Thibodeau sent him onto the court.

"It's very disappointing to get into a hole like that," the Bulls' coach said. "I'll put that on me. I gotta get that right."

Well, maybe one way is to depart from the usual starting lineup that includes Carlos Boozer -- he of the 8 points and the plus-15 points the Wizards enjoyed while he was in Game 4.

Boozer happens to play the same power forward position as Gibson, who was a plus-5 during his playing time. Overall, Gibson did play 32 minutes to Boozer's 24, but the game's critical ones turned out to be the early ones.

"When you get into that kind of hole," Thibodeau said, "you have to expend a lot of energy to get out of it."

The Bulls never did emerge from the abyss. Washington led the entire game. The Bulls kept chipping into the deficit but never really threatened.

So what to do now?

Sometimes the answer is the obvious: Let Gibson start the game in place of Boozer and see if that enables the Bulls to drive around that pothole that knocked them off balance.

"Outstanding," Thibodeau said of Gibson's performance. "People who have seen him all year know how good he is."

Thibodeau also knows that, of course, which is why Gibson is in the game during every fourth quarter instead of Boozer.

But if the Bulls are going to "start fast, finish strong and play for 48 minutes" -- as Thibodeau says they must -- why not let Gibson help all the way?

Gibson appears to be the Bulls' best player right now. So if Jimmy Butler could play all 53 minutes of an overtime game in this series, Gibson should be able to play all 48 in Game 5?

If this would be a sign of panic, so be it. If it signals desperation, you got it. If it's a moment of truth, that's exactly what it is.

"I don't know," Gibson said of a possible lineup change. "I can't speculate. I trust (Thibodeau)."

Taj Gibson trusts his coach to do the right thing, which is to get wild and crazy and change his starting lineup Tuesday night.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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