Boozer out, Noah game-time decision vs. Wizards

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Boozer out, Noah game-time decision vs. Wizards

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Posted: 2:09 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
As if playing without Carlos Boozer weren't enough for the Chicago Bulls, it looks like the Ides of March have wreaked havoc on Joakim Noah, too.

After Tuesday's shootaround, head coach Tom Thibodeau said that Boozer will miss tonight's game against the Washington Wizards due to his ankle injury and that Noah will be a game-time decision after he was sent home with an illness.

With the possibility of being without two key players and Derrick Rose having to pick up some of the scoring load, it could be an opportunity for C.J. Watson to step into the spotlight a bit.

Playing behind Rose, it's easy for Watson to go unnoticed. In the approximately 13 minutes he plays nightly, the soft-spoken point guard averages a modest 4.8 points and 2.1 assists.Tom Thibodeau to appear on "The Dan Patrick Show" Wednesday at 9:05 a.m.

By the numbers, this isn't the season he expect, nor did diligent Bulls fans expecting him to be more of a scoring threat, given his past two seasons in Golden State, when he averaged around 10 points per game. But don't lump Thibodeau into that category of observers.

"C.J.'s played very well all season," said Thibodeau. "Whenever C.J.'s gotten extended minutes, he's played even better. We felt good about him going into the season and I think he's exceeded all our expectations."

While Watson has occasionally shown some of the scoring ability he displayed more often with the Warriors--for example, his 16-point, eight-assist, five-rebound performance Saturday or his 33-point explosion in November against the Nuggets when Rose missed the game with a sore neck -- his role with the team's second unit as a ball-pressuring point guard, capable outside shooter, savvy penetrator and underrated playmaker have been more valuable to the Bulls.

"I'm just trying to go out there and make some plays, whether it's offensively or defensively. I'm just trying to play well, so he Thibodeau doesn't take me out," Watson told CSNChicago.com. "It takes a little time for me to get adjusted to the system and all the play calls. Everybody wants the ball and it's the first year with a lot of new players, so now I'm just a little more comfortable trying to get my shots and get others shots."

Added Thibodeau: "C.J. can get a lot going with his defense, too."

"C.J. can really shoot the ball, too. We're starting to see it more and more, but he's a great shooter, he's clever with the ball, he's very effective in the pick-and-roll and he's done a good job of getting Kyle shots, and now they're also starting to make plays for each other ... he's done a great job. You judge a point guard more by how the unit's playing when he's on the floor," he continued. "He's a very bright guy and he picks things up quickly. He played for Don Nelson, who's a great coach. That helped him in some ways; in a lot of ways. He picked things up very quickly here. That was the challenge for us right from the start of the season. With so many new guys, how quickly could we get all of them on to the same page? He made that adjustment very well. He got his unit playing great. They feed off of each other and they're bringing a lot of energy to the game each and every night."
READ: Bulls bench playing major role in recent success

Watson isn't much of a talker -- he doesn't say much to the media, although he's certainly not unfriendly and is clearly popular with his teammates -- and while he isn't as dynamic as Rose, he's become noticeably more vocal on the court.

"He's sort of quiet -- he's not quiet when he's around his teammates--but he's very confident and he's prepared himself," observed Thibodeau. "He's got that second team executing great right now."

Of course, Watson would love to see more minutes--his effectiveness with Rose when Thibodeau pairs them against smallish opposing backcourts may come into play in the postseason, depending on the Bulls' opponents -- but when you're backing up the likely league MVP, it's hard to see where the minutes would come from. At the same time, after toiling in the minor leagues and overseas, then playing for a less-than-competitive Warriors team, Watson is appreciative of his experience on a contender.

"It feels great," Watson told CSNChicago.com. "Going home at night, it's a lot better than losing and just thinking about the playoffs is a whole other feeling."Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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