Over the past year and a half, when the going gets tough in the Chicago Bulls’ world, fans tend to point the finger at Carlos Boozer. The 6-foot-9 power forward’s struggles last season, especially in the playoffs, have been well-documented by the NBA’s fans and media.
However, this season, Boozer is putting together his best campaign in a Bulls uniform. He dropped a double-double and game-highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds in 34 minutes of action in an 85-59 blowout win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night, pushing his season averages to 15.5 points, 8.3 rebounds while shooting 53.2 percent from the field in about 30 minutes per game. Most importantly for the Bulls, Boozer – who has had the “injury-prone” label throughout his 10-year career – has played in all 48 contests and has looked much more comfortable playing alongside Joakim Noah this season.
In Boozer’s last two games against the Magic, he has dropped a combined 50 points on 20-for-38 shooting and 20 rebounds. The 30-year-old attacked his primary defender, Ryan Anderson, who has a couple inches on Boozer, throughout both contests in impressive fashion. Boozer shot 7-for-11 on jumpers, 12-for-18 overall, Monday at Amway Center and even knocked down a pair of mid-range, high-arching shots over Magic center Dwight Howard in the second half.
With Derrick Rose sidelined for the fourth consecutive game due to a sore groin, the Bulls gave the basketball to Boozer time and time again and watched him produce one of his best games of the season, considering that the Magic have an imposing front line that features Howard, a three-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and that they constantly either had a long-armed defender or placed a double-team on him.
Whether it was face-up jumpers, fadeaways or hook shots from point-blank range, Boozer’s entire offensive repertoire was on display, and although he didn’t get to the free throw line, all three of his first-quarter baskets came in the paint, which set the tone for him. Defensively, he had four steals, while the Bulls outscored the Magic by 19 points when he was on the court.
“Offensively, I was just being aggressive, taking what was there, playing off my teammates,” Boozer told reporters after the game.
The Bulls as a whole exhibited stellar ball movement for most of the night, as they assisted on all of their first six baskets and ended up with 19 dimes. But when it comes to Boozer, Chicago fans always wonder why he's seemingly been unable put up solid outings against the Eastern Conference rival Miami Heat, whom many NBA followers believe have an undersized frontcourt.
Coach Tom Thibodeau’s bunch knows that they will need more performances like the last two against Orlando out of Boozer if they are going to reach the next level. He has scored a combined 12 points in two contests versus Miami this season – an offensive output that obviously will not cut it when the playoffs roll around. Still, Boozer has shown plenty of promise this season and knows he needs to build on the efforts he has turned in against the Magic.
“He had a wide variety of shots,” Thibodeau told the assembled media. “He started off inside, then he moved to the perimeter a little bit. He was quick, and when he’s shooting the ball from the perimeter like that, you have to close hard and he has the ability to put it down and go by you. So I thought he mixed up his game great. I thought his rebounding was very good … [and] he played with energy the whole game.”