Taj Gibson cherishes playoff win with Tom Thibodeau, D-Rose

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Gibson's moving answer after playoff win with Rose, Thibs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

On May 26, 2011, the Chicago Bulls fell to the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, ending that season's title bid. The defeat that was supposed to signal the beginning of a years-long rivalry, but instead represented the high water mark of that era of Bulls basketball.

So there was something poetic in the fact that three of that era's most notorious protagonists — Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau and Taj Gibson — were front and center for a playoff triumph precisely one decade later.

Somewhat tragically so, though, the three did it in the blue and orange of the New York Knicks and in front of 16,254 rabid fans at Madison Square Garden, not in the Bulls' red and black while rocking the Madhouse on Madison. The Knicks' 101-92 win over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night marked their first playoff victory since 2013.

In the game, Rose logged 39 minutes, notching 26 points and four assists. Gibson tallied six points, seven rebounds, three steals and a block while registering a game-high +23 plus-minus. Both played closing minutes as Thibodeau presided over all.

And after the game, Gibson, a Brooklyn native, gave an emotion-packed answer to a question asking what getting the win alongside Rose and Thibodeau meant to him. The three have shared allegiance at three stops in Chicago, Minnesota and now New York.

"To be honest with you I really can't (put the meaning into words). It's so surreal," Gibson said. "When I talk to the young guys who wake up and they may not know where their path is gonna lead them or where the game is gonna take them: Just trust your heart. Don't worry about what nobody is gonna say.

"Because I sat years ago, as a rookie, or my second year — maybe my second year — I sat every day with Thibs after practice and we talked about the Knicks, we talked about the battles, we talked about how great it would be to play there one day. And then for it to come true, and then I'm playing with Derrick, who I've been playing with my whole career? And we have the same familiar faces, but now we're in New York City? God doesn't make any mistakes, man. You just gotta follow your path. You just gotta believe in yourself. Stay the course.

"The course is always gonna be rocky. But you just gotta stay the course and believe in yourself and truly believe, man. Because this is some magical stuff right now, I don't know how to explain it, it's just every day I come in, it's just — I don't take anything for granted. But every day that I come in it's just surreal, and you've gotta pinch yourself because you're playing in the Garden. It's one of the toughest places to play, but it's one of the beautifulest places to play when you (on the) right (team). And we're trying to do some special things here and right now we're laying the groundwork for it and it's an awesome feeling."

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The Knicks' gutsy comeback win leveled their first-round series with the Hawks 1-1. Now, the two sides head to Atlanta for Game 3.

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