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NBA -- Gibson, Boozer power Bulls over Magic


PhilBoxing.com




CHICAGO -- Getting a spot in an NBA roster is tough, becoming a starter is even tougher. So when Bulls forward Taj Gibson got his first call to be in the starting unit Wednesday night at the Amway Center in Orlando, the three-year pro made the most out of the rare opportunity.

Playing in place of center Joakim Noah, who was sidelined with flu-like symptoms, the 6-foot-9, 225-pound Gibson scored 21 points and plucked 11 rebounds as the Chicago Bulls edged the Orlando Magic, 96-94.

A fixture on the bench, Gibson's presence in the starting unit provided energy a lackluster Bulls crew, who succumbed to an embarassing defeat against the woeful Charlotte Bobcats last New Year's eve at the United Center. Chicago exploded with 29 first quarter points and took a 54-46 at halftime lead.

"I just tried to be active," the Chicago Tribune quoted Gibson, who sank 8-of-12 field goals and blocked four shots.

But it took more than just Gibson's solid effort to stymie the gritty Magic. Power forward Carlos Boozer starred with 31 points and 11 rebounds, easily his most productive outing in an up-and-down season. Boozer's presence helped the Bulls prevent the Magic from completely dominating the boards without the 6-foot-11 Noah.

Luol Deng added 23 markers.

A pair of Boozer free throws at the 4:34 mark of the third quarter gave the Bulls what seemed like an insormountable 76-58 advantage. But the Magic, behind point guard Jameer Nelson's 32 points, chopped down the deficit to 94-92 with 46.3 ticks to go. Only a blocked Nelson lay-up with 11.3 seconds left to play prevented Orlando from tying the count at 94-94. Deng then sealed the deal with two free throws after getting hacked in the ensuing play.

The Bulls shot 46.8 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from 3-point range. They improved to 17-13, a full game behind the 19-13 Indiana Pacers for the top spot in the Central Division of the Eastern Confrence.

Nikola Vuevic, Orlando's hulking 7-foot, 240-pound, tallied 20 points and 12 rebounds while Arron Afflalo had 19 and three assists. (HDS)

PHOTO: Carlos Boozer (far right) scored a season-high 31 points as the Bulls nipped the Magic, 96-94, at the Amway Center in Orlando.



Click here to view a list of other articles written by Homer D. Sayson.


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