NEW YORK -- Having sat on the Chicago Bulls bench for most of the season didn't sting so much for Marquis Teague on Saturday night. Not after playing pivotal minutes in Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets.
"This was big. This was Game 7 of the playoffs. Don't get any bigger than the playoffs," Teague said. "So to play now, I'd rather play now than the whole season."
Teague received his most minutes of the series Saturday and played well in the Bulls' 99-93 win. Teague scored four points and had three assists in 14:29, the most minutes he's registered since a win over Golden State on March 15.
"I just wanted to come out and play. I didn't want to have any letups," Teague said. "I just wanted to come out there and play as hard as I can, make sure I was defending."
The Bulls' first-round pick in 2012, Teague had a hard time cracking the rotation this season, averaging just 8.2 minutes in 48 regular-season games. In the postseason, he had played a total of eight minutes entering Saturday, with three inactive games.
Even with his lack of activity, Teague always believed in the team's mantra that everybody needs to be ready, knowing an injury or an ejection could lead to more playing time. Saturday, with the Bulls again missing Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, Teague received his chance.
He entered at the start of the second quarter, spelling Nate Robinson, and played 8:14 that stanza, scoring all four of his points on a layup and a nice jumper. During that quarter, Teague, along with fellow rarely-used reserve Daequan Cook, helped the Bulls push their lead to 61-44. Teague wanted to make sure he delivered defensively, scurrying after any loose rebounds.
"I was just being aggressive, trying to make things happen while I was in there," Teague said. "Just take advantage of my opportunities."
Teague, 20, sat the third but started the fourth quarter, once again giving Robinson time to rest. The Bulls led 82-75 entering the quarter, and Teague played the first 6:15 before bowing out to Robinson for the remainder of the game. When Teague left, the Bulls were still ahead five, 86-81.
"Great job. He really helped us out," Robinson said of Teague. "Being ready, staying ready, knowing everything that we need to know to be out there and play the game. On top of that, he's 20 years old, he's a rookie, playing on the team with guys with injuries. He stepped up big tonight
Not knowing how much he would play Saturday, Teague said he kept himself focused by being enthusiastic during the game, fixating himself on the action and paying close attention in the huddles. If the moment came for him to help, Teague wanted to be ready.
When it finally did, Teague gave Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau reason to give the rookie extended minutes.
"I wasn't surprised. Thibs goes with whatever was working," Teague said. "He felt like I was out there competing at a high level so that's what we went with. I was ready for whatever. If I needed to be on the bench cheering, that would have been fine too."