ATLANTA -- Tom Thibodeau has cut down his rotations so much during the postseason that the only time you really heard or saw anything about the Bench Mob -- the moniker given to the Bulls' reserve unit -- was when the advertisements for their t-shirts popped up in the United Center. All of that changed on Friday night, though. Led by Taj Gibson, who stepped in for the slumping and injured Carlos Boozer, the Bench Mob had a rebirth in a Game 3 win against the Atlanta Hawks.
Gibson played 26 minutes, scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Kyle Korver was 4-for-6 from the field and dropped in 11 points. C.J. Watson had eight points. Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik played solid minutes and ramped up the defensive intensity when needed. For the first time in several weeks, the Bulls looked like the team that dominated the regular season and ripped off 62 victories. Aside from Derrick Rose's dominance, one of the biggest reasons that was the case was due to the solid play from the second unit that seemed to have lost its way.
"The second unit, it's not real flashy. It's not real cute and pretty. But we just play really good team basketball," Korver said. "And play great defense. And those guys just clog up the middle and make it really tough for them to score. We've tried to do that all year and I thought the second unit was really great tonight."
Korver wasn't the only one singing the Bench Mob's praises. Pretty much everybody in the Bulls locker room said the same thing.
"They've been doing that for us all year," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Our bench is tough. During practices, it's always a battle against the Bench Squad. Omer, I feel like played very well. Tajy ... just running back on defense. Huge, huge, huge. Taj Gibson, the effort he gave us. You can't say enough about what Kyle Korver brings to this team. And Ronnie [Brewer]. Everybody knows their role on this team and we're OK with it. It's all about winning and that's something that's pretty unique in this league."
In one particularly key stretch and the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second, the Bench Mob took a six point lead and turned it into a 13 point margin. A total the Bulls would continually build on throughout the night, led by Gibson.
"He was playing great," Boozer said. "He was getting offensive rebounds. He was getting open shots. He was playing great D, I don't know how many blocks he had, but he should have had like five or six the way he was blocking shots. You just saw the lead go from 10, 12 points, 15 points. It was a gradual progression, it was great. Great to watch. You saw how excited we got on the bench. We love it, yo. We're a team. All we care about is winning. Very few games are you going to win by that margin, especially in the playoffs. We've got a great team."
In case people had forgotten at some point over the past few weeks, the Bulls reminded everyone on Friday night that they also have a pretty good bench.