DALLAS – We’ve been tough on Carlos Boozer here at HT over the years, dating to his disappearing act just last season in Utah, when the Jazz were blown out of the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
We’ve often argued that Boozer’s impressive numbers were a bit deceiving compared to what you see from him during the heat of the moment.
ut he shut us up last night. He did what the Bulls pay him to do in helping punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since the Michael Jordan era, where a showdown with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the real Heat awaits.
Boozer, finally recovered from the turf toe that plagued him early on during the conference semifinal series against the Hawks, certainly looked like the difference-maker he was supposed to be when the Bulls signed him as a high-dollar free agent last summer. So, it took some hollering from MVP Derrick Rose to get Boozer to stay aggressive (he yelled at Boozer to “SHOOT THE BALL” a couple of times). That’s fine.
Make no mistake, it was Boozer’s 23 points and 10 rebounds, which included a wicked start to get the Bulls going from the opening tip, that made the biggest difference in closing out the Hawks. And now that Boozer understands what Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wants out of him on the defensive end, this Bulls-Heat matchup should be even more intriguing.
The stars will be out in the conference finals, but Boozer is wise enough to know that success for his team will depend on just that: the team.
Our main man Sam Smith over at Bulls.com provides a thorough take on Chicago’s outlook, with an emphasis on Boozer’s play:
“We’ve done it as a team all season,” Boozer said. “We’re not a one man show, though our man is pretty good. We have an unsung hero in Luol Deng who’s played great D all series, all season, who makes big shots down the stretch of games. We rely on everybody. Not one or two guys (Miami reference?). It’s everybody, a great coach who puts us in the right position to be successful and we play together out there.”
And it was the Bulls big free agent, Boozer, who came up the biggest in the biggest game thus far, the closeout to the conference finals.
“Huge,” said Rose about Boozer. “He made simple plays where if they were off of him, shoot the ball. We always tell him that. Tonight, I think, raised his confidence. I think it’s going to help us for the next series.”
Subject to criticism for his play, questioned about his toe injury and place in the starting lineup, Boozer shot 10 of 16 and got the Bulls off fast with nine points and three rebounds in the first quarter and 21 through three.
“We all knew it was coming for him,” said Luol Deng with another all around effort, defending Johnson and getting 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals. “He was due for a game like that. Carlos has been working hard and it paid off.”
Boozer has earned a reprieve from us now that he has helped deliver the Bulls to this point. So there will be no more Boozer bashing around here … for now, at least.
We reserve the right, however, to revisit our previous stance based on what Boozer does in the conference finals.