Carlos Boozer's Game of the Year Lifts Short-Handed Chicago Bulls

By Ryan Heckman
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls entered Thursday night’s game down five players against the Brooklyn Nets. No Derrick Rose. No Rip Hamilton. No Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, or Marco Belinelli.

And you know what? No problem. These Bulls don’t quit that easily.

The wins have not come easily this season, especially as of late, but the biggest reason they have come is because of the play of two remaining healthy stars on the roster. Both Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer have been playing their best basketball of the year recently.

Tonight was all about Boozer. He finished with 29 points and 18 rebounds in what was surely his biggest game of the season on a night where the Bulls got one of their biggest wins of the season.

Knowing the magnitude of this game being on the road and playing with so few healthy guys, Boozer took it upon himself to be the offense. He was incredibly efficient from the field, shooting 12-of-22. Whether it was knocking down his signature mid-range jump shot or finishing with a slam, he did it all on the offensive side tonight.

Even without Noah and Gibson, the Bulls out-rebounded the Nets 46-30, reminding people that this is where they excel night in and night out no matter who is on the court. Tonight while relying heavily on Boozer, both Jimmy Butler (10) and Nazr Mohammed (nine) played their part well on the boards.

This type of performance is exactly what Chicago needs entering the playoffs. These types of gutted-out wins are going to be the difference between a first-round exit and making some noise deeper into the playoffs.

With little to no reliability at the moment from the guys who sat out tonight, Boozer and Deng are going to have to keep this type of play up. Deng finished with 18 points and seven rebounds while also doing what he normally does defensively, and that is playing at an elite level.

Going forward, the Bulls only have two remaining games against teams with winning records. They have two games apiece with the Orlando Magic and the Toronto Raptors, as well as contests with the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. The two winning teams just so happen to be the New York Knicks and Miami Heat.

Chicago will be smart to not take any of these games for granted. They’ll beat up on the teams that they’re supposed to beat up on, and play your heart out against the Knicks and Heat.

Going into the playoffs, no one knows what can happen, especially when referring to this team. What we do know for sure is that both Boozer and Deng don’t plan on letting this season slip by without giving every night a fight for their lives.

Ryan Heckman is a Minnesota Timberwolves writer and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google


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