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Gibson's defense, dunks thrill Bulls

CHICAGO -- Taj Gibson has performed so well over the past week that he has Carlos Boozer playing the role of a proud father. When Boozer speaks of his younger teammate, he beams with pride.

"Think about it," Boozer said after the Chicago Bulls' 103-82 Game 1 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday night, excitedly pointing at his locker mate. "He's in his second year. The first time he's ever been in the conference finals. Had two monster plays, two monster dunks, and inspired the crap out of the entire team. We all jumped up like it was us dunking the ball. I'm just excited for him, excited for our whole team."

As he has so often during this postseason run, Gibson gave his teammates plenty to cheer about on Sunday, scoring nine points, grabbing seven rebounds and playing solid defense. Gibson also provided the play of the night early in the second quarter when he threw down a monster dunk on Dwyane Wade. A play that still had his teammates buzzing after the game.

"It was unbelievable," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "The one on Wade was crazy and the one at the end of the game was crazy, too. I've been calling him ‘Light Feet’ for a long time. That's his nickname around here… he's got a few nicknames, but ‘Light Feet’ is one of them."

For Gibson, the dunks were all in a day’s work. As usual, he just tries to do what Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wants him to do the most: play defense and rebound. Anything beyond that is just a bonus.

"We just stick to what we've been doing all year long," Gibson said. "Just rebound the ball, play solid defense and it played big keys [for us] tonight. We didn't think we'd win the game on [just] offensive rebounds and playing hard, but that's how our team is. We're rugged. I'm just happy the way guys came out real aggressive and played with a lot of heart tonight."

The Bulls, especially Gibson, also played with a fire that got Miami's attention. Even Wade had to tip his hat to the second-year forward after the facial he gave the former Finals MVP.

"Yeah, that was a good one," Wade said. "That's the first time I've been dunked on all year. I'll take my 90-1 dunks [ratio] this year. It was a very athletic play. I knew I didn't have a chance when I was backpedaling. He's very athletic. This won't be the last time I get dunked on."

But that wasn't even Gibson's favorite slam of the night. He preferred the put-back stuff that he threw down late in the fourth quarter because of what it represented.

"That just shows that no matter what the score is, no matter how much time is left in the game, you never stop playing," Gibson said. "You want to keep playing til the clock runs out and that's Thibs' motto: Play 48 minutes. And tonight we wanted to go out there and show that we can play 48 minutes of tough basketball."

That's exactly what the Bulls did and Gibson is clearly gaining more confidence because of it. He's also realizing that his play can have a powerful impact on the rest of his team.

"It's great, because all year long we've been doing that," Gibson said. "Fueling each other… even through ups and downs with injuries… and guys stepping up, playing big minutes. It plays a big role, having Booz cheer for us. That just shows that we're a team and a family. And like Thibs said, we're going to walk through the fire and we're going to walk through the fire together. And it's showing right now."