Few ''energy-and-effort'' guys are as mellow as Taj Gibson.
The Bulls' reserve forward played his role to perfection against the Atlanta Hawks, shutting down red-hot Hawks' forward Josh Smith and adding 19 points, six rebounds and a blocked shot in the Bulls' 98-77 victory. And when things got rough in the Bulls were pulling away, Gibson kept his cool.
With the Bulls leading 85-68 with 6:50 to play, Gibson was heading to the basket on a fast break after a turnover by Joe Johnson when Johnson grabbed him around the neck and knocked Gibson to the ground. It looked like an intentional and flagrant foul, but Johnson was called for neither penalty because it was ruled that he slipped on a wet spot on the court and grabbed Gibson to break his fall. That's his story and he's sticking to it.
''I can't even call it,'' Gibson said. ''I went hard. He rouled me a little hard. It's basketball -- just get up. I'm happy I made the foul shots [actually 1-of-2] and move on. One thing about that: You just have to let the referee decide and luckily nobody got hurt.''
Korver bloodied but not beaten
Kyle Korver had a tough night. He shot 1-for-6 from the field, though he did have three assists and took a shot to the face that drew blood in the first half. He said he didn't even know what hit him, but he ''got clobbered,'' with blood dripping from a cut on his forehead that required stitches and scrapes on his nose and lip.
Deng breaks three-point slump
Luol Deng hit his first five three-point attempts against the Hawks after making 4-of-26 in his previous six games.
''I just knocked 'em down,'' Deng said. ''It's the same shots. I just had good looks and they went down.''
Bulls undaunted by angst over one-game losing streak
The Bulls have set such a high standard under Tom Thibodeau that three consecutive subpar efforts without Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton caused some consternation among skittish fans and media, even though the Bulls (41-11) won two of the three games and still have the best record in the NBA.
''We know what we are,'' Korver said. ''It's a grind of a season -- so many games. There are going to be nights where you just don't have it. You try not to let that happen two games in a row. But for the most part we've done a pretty good job.
''Obviously the last week or so our energy level's been down. I thought [Wednesday] night was a step in the right direction as far as playing the type of basketball we want to play.''
Said Thibodeau: ''The important thing is what our team thinks. We have to strive for improvement every day, keeping in mind that we want to play our best in the end. We knew we were capable of playing better. There are going to be ups and downs and you have to be able to navigate through those things.
''The important thing is to stay together, keep working and when things aren't going our way, we can count on our defense and rebounding and ball movement. We tried to get some easier baskets [against the Hawks] and we did. I liked the way we persevered.''