Taj Gibson might be Bulls’ best player in camp, Tom Thibodeau says

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Derrick Rose will be the Bulls’ best player next season. In some order, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Carlos Boozer will follow.

Taj Gibson has a chance to join that secondary group.

In three preseason games, he’s averaging 17.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. Preseason games don’t mean much, but when that production backed by a strong scouting report from the coach, that bodes well.

Tom Thibodeau, via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

‘‘You could make a case that Taj has been our best player in camp,’’ Thibodeau said.

‘‘[Last season] wasn’t up to his standards,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s playing with a lot of confidence now.’’

The Bulls bench lost a little luster last season, and Gibson taking a small step back contributed. He was still solid, but he wasn’t the Sixth Man of the Year candidate he was the year prior. If Gibson gets back on track, he could be a key piece toward a Chicago title run.

Gibson is an excellent defender, and you know Thibodeau appreciates that. The big man also scores well in the paint, though his offense hasn’t exactly been a huge asset. If he progresses on that end, he could mean a lot more than a key 2013-14 piece. He could be the catalyst for the Bulls moving Carlos Boozer, either via amnesty or trade.

Simply, the better Gibson is, the more flexibility Chicago has in the short and long term.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook go head-to-head, literally (video)

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This sure didn’t look like just another game for Kevin Durant – and not only because the Thunder beat the Warriors for the first time since he left.

The 108-91 Oklahoma City victory didn’t look like just another game for Russell Westbrook (34 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals), either.

Harrison Barnes banks in game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter and the game tied, Grizzlies big JaMychal Green put back Tyreke Evans‘ miss with a clutch flush. There’s a very fine line between ensuring the last shot and leaving time for an offensive rebound, and Memphis threated it almost perfectly.

Emphasis on “almost.”

The Grizzlies left the Mavericks 0.5 seconds, which Harrison Barnes used to bank in a 3-pointer – off a pinpoint bounce pass by Dennis Smith Jr. – to give Dallas a 95-94 win.

Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.

After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.

The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.

Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.

Serge Ibaka gets dunked on by Enes Kanter, hit in face by ball (video)

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Is Enes Kanter mad Serge Ibaka rifted with his family?

(No, not this family. That family.)