There's something to be said for putting your best defensive team on the floor. Coming into Tuesday night's Game 5 against the Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls talked a lot about needing to regain their defensive intensity.
Perhaps they had it early in the game as they built an 11-point lead after one quarter. But somewhere during the middle two quarters, the Bulls lost their way again. The Hawks took a short-lived lead in the third quarter, and Chicago led by just one point (69-68) heading into the fourth.
But then Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau did something different -- and smart. He put Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik on the floor in the fourth quarter, along with usual suspects Derrick Rose and Luol Deng.
After Atlanta shot 53 percent over the first three quarters of the game, it was limited to just 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulls pulled away for a 95-83 victory.
The win gives the Bulls a 3-2 lead in this best-of-seven series. Game 6 is Thursday night in Atlanta.
Rose had a solid effort in Game 5, 33 points on 11-for-24 shooting. And Deng emerged as the second scoring option the Bulls were lacking in Game 4, as he turned in a strong 23-point effort.
But to me, the difference in the game was Gibson, who responded with 11 fourth-quarter points and several strong defensive plays. Carlos Boozer had 11 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes, but he's got to be more productive than that given how poor he is on the defensive end.
Gibson, in contrast, plays strong and tough in the paint. He and Asik protected the basket during the Bulls' fourth-quarter push. You just didn't get that when Boozer was on the floor.
If Thibodeau is serious about defense being the most important thing right now, Gibson needs more minutes. If they don't want to start him, that's cool. I understand there are politics involved when you're coaching an NBA team and you don't want to alienate certain veterans.
However, I think I'd much rather have Gibson on the floor during crunch time than Boozer right now. I think I'd rather have Brewer on the floor than Kyle Korver, too. Korver is like Boozer -- if he ain't scoring, he ain't helping, because he can't guard anybody.
On Tuesday, Thibodeau put the guys who can guard out there when it mattered most. No surprise, those players got the Bulls the victory.