For whatever criticism is aimed at Carlos Boozer, it must be said that the Bulls power forward handles it all very gracefully, as nimble as his footwork in the low post.
But while the Bulls, especially sans Derrick Rose, are usually jump-started by All-Star center Joakim Noah’s energy, inspired by veteran floor general Kirk Hinrich’s intangibles, have the gaps filled in by All-Star small forward Luol Deng’s all-around play and get an extra boost from top reserve Taj Gibson, Boozer’s understudy, it must be acknowledged that as much as those blue-collar players are the heart and soul of the squad, none of them is as offensively gifted as the much-maligned native of Alaska. Therefore, as much as the Bulls’ defense, certainly not Boozer’s forte, was responsible for holding the high-flying Heat to 87 points Monday night at the United Center, his offense, responsible for a game-high 27 of the home team’s winning 107 points, is undeniably just as relevant in the scope of the victory.
Simply put: Boozer, playing aggressively and using his bulk to overpower Miami’s smallish frontline, was dialed in during the rout in a way that hasn’t been seen early in the season, even before Rose’s season-ending injury, and the result was a formidable Bulls’ offensive display against a Miami defense that doesn’t typically allow such efforts. But while his struggles have been noticeable during this losing stretch for the Bulls, in which they suffered six defeats in their past seven games heading into Monday’s affair, his teammates were confident that Boozer would bounce back in due time.
“He had a great game for us. Carlos is capable. He’s a great player. He’s capable of games like that. Whenever someone struggles, especially someone like him, it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out of it and this is such a long season. There’s so many games. There’s games that whether it’s teams, individually, you’re going to go through a little bit of a slump,” Deng explained to CSNChicago.com. “Carlos just sticks to what he does. He still goes in and shoots early, does everything the same way. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day, his routine is the same, and when stuff like that happens, you only expect a guy to play well again.”
Boozer himself, while outgoing by nature — as evidenced by his constant chatter on the court — shies away from talking about his own game regularly, possibly because he’s been the object of so much scorn during his tenure in Chicago and even before. But he couldn’t deny that his outing, which also included nine rebounds, part of the Bulls’ 49-27 edge on the glass, and 10-for-17 shooting, was a significant reason that the two-time defending NBA champions were stymied.
“I don’t know. Keep it going, be aggressive, might be the matchups, might be whatever it is. I feed off my teammates, and I play off of them. I’ve got players all around me,” Boozer explained. “Obviously we came in with a mindset that whatever happened before tonight is history. Tonight’s a new night, we’ve got a chance to right a couple of wrongs. For me, I watched tape in the last week or so, and I watched tape in the beginning of the season, saw a big difference in my energy and where the offense was going. I had a great conversation with my teammates and just tried to start over tonight, and it worked out.”
Like last season, which didn’t feature Rose at all, Boozer’s play will be key to the Bulls’ success. More nights like this will come and evenings when he isn’t such a dominant factor will also arise. But there’s no denying how important the team’s polarizing figure is to their season.