Boozer's underrated toughness evident in clash with Heat

Boozer's underrated toughness evident in clash with Heat
March 28, 2013, 1:45 am
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After Taj Gibson’s flagrant foul on LeBron James was reviewed and eventually overturned—after watching it on video, the game officials changed it to a personal foul—in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s 101-97 Bulls’ victory over the Heat at the United Center, the league’s reigning MVP was fired up.

On the subsequent possession, James, guarding Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich, essentially tried to run over power forward Carlos Boozer, who was stationary and setting a screen.

He jostled Boozer, his former Cleveland teammate—they played together for the Cavaliers during James’ rookie season, before Boozer signed with Utah as a free agent—but a smaller man might have been knocked across the court.

But aside from James being assessed a flagrant foul of his own, one that stuck, nothing came of the situation.

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“We’re good friends. That’s just hoops. We took a hard foul on one of their guys, somebody on their team. they’re going to take a hard foul on us,” Boozer, who had a 21-point, 17-rebound outing, said of the situation. “I’m good. I wasn’t going to be phased by it, but after the game we’re friends. But during the game, we’re like enemies and that’s how it is. We compete.”

Boozer might be a lightning rod for Bulls fans, but his performance Wednesday, without injured All-Star center Joakim Noah alongside him, demonstrated his value.

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“Carlos is having a terrific season, he really is. He’s physical inside and we need that,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You’re not going to push him around. I think that’s important.”

The much-maligned power forward may have his share of detractors, but when he’s the Bulls’ rock—literally and figuratively—and rises to the occasion, as he did Wednesday, although he won’t get the lion’s share of the credit, his contributions simply can’t be denied.