Gibson Gives Bulls Emotional Lift

May 09, 2012

Taj Gibson had a quiet night, other than being a one-man SWAT team, scuffling with Elton Brand and limping onto the court a la Willis Reed.

When Gibson returned in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle, the United Center crowd erupted.

"I was going back in regardless of the pain," Gibson said. "I was only worried about riding till the wheels came off."

If this had been a regular-season game, Gibson might have stayed out after the 76ers' Lavoy Allen stepped on his foot while driving to the basket, leaving Gibson to limp to the locker room.

But it was an elimination game.

"It was do or die," Gibson said. "Nobody wants to get eliminated at home. You battle until you can't battle no more."

Shortly after returning, Gibson nailed a 15-foot jumper over Spencer Hawes to kill a 6-0 76ers run.

Gibson then attempted a fast-break layup and came down wincing.

The Bulls forward said he was "still in a little bit of shock" afterward but pledged to play Thursday in Game 6.

"I'll do everything in my power to play," he said. "I have all summer to lay back if we lose, so I'm going to lay it on the line."

Gibson returned to his roots in the first half, blocking four shots. At USC, he tallied a school-record 253 blocks in his three seasons.

Twice he rejected 76ers forward Thaddeus Young, the second coming on what would have been a thunderous slam. He also turned away Lou Williams on a fast break and stuffed Jrue Holiday on a jumper.

If that didn't make enough of an impression, Gibson also served as the team's emotional leader after getting tangled up with Brand, the former Bull.

After they hit the deck fighting for a loose ball near the Bulls bench, the two exchanged elbows and Gibson appeared to graze Brand's jaw with a forearm. The officials used replay to review the incident, and both were assessed technical fouls.

"I have a lot of respect for Elton Brand," he said. "I look up to him. It's good for basketball, guys going hard for their team."

There was talk that the league would consider suspending Gibson because of his blow to Brand's face.

"Suspended?" Gibson said "I didn't intentionally try to elbow him. I was just trying to play hard for my team. I'm not worried about that.

"It was guys just being aggressive and going hard for their team. It's playoff basketball."

And no hard feelings.

Said Gibson: "He looked at me and said, 'Are you good?' I said, 'I'm fine.' That's it. Move on."

Brand agreed, calling it "just a tussle."

"I felt that I had an elbow to the face," Brand said. "Can't allow that. But nothing dirty. After the play was over, it was over."

Tags: Taj Gibson , Chicago Bulls , playoffs