This is why the Bulls brought in Carlos Boozer.
On a night when Derrick Rose (3-for-13) and Joakim Noah (3-for-8) apparently lost motor control in their shooting hands, Boozer picked up the slack and then some, scoring 29 points on 13-for-21 from the field to go along with 12 rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Look out, NBA. Chicago has a legitimate second scoring threat.
There was a time — like a few games ago — when a 3-for-13 shooting night for Rose against a good team like the Thunder (14-8) probably would have been a disaster. Like drinking a jar of peanut butter in the desert. Or something.
Last night, Rose didn’t have it…but he was able to lean on somebody else’s offense for a change. He was able to say, “Here’s the ball, big fella. Go to work.”
Man, it must have been a relief.
I guess Derrick had more help during his rookie season when Ben Gordon was still playing Bomber Man for the Bulls. But this is different. Back in the Gordon era, Little Ben liked to have the ball in his hands. By contrast, Rose and Boozer can play off of each other. Rose wasn’t running pick and rolls with Gordon, wasn’t finding him around the basket for easy layups.
Said Rose: “[Boozer] makes the game easy, where I just got to pass it to him. He’s going to find a way to score or get fouled. And that’s what we need right now on this team — where somebody in the post or someone down low that can really score, and that’s him.”
Right now? That’s what the Bulls have needed for years.
By the way, I’m not saying that Noah and Luol Deng haven’t been pitching in points. They have. But let’s face it, Noah isn’t a true scorer and Deng — although my appreciation of his contributions is no secret around here — really is more of a third banana sort of player.
Admittedly, Deng sometimes struggled when forced to masquerade as The Second Guy. But he thrives in the “third scorer” role. Look how efficient he played last night: 19 points, 9-for-16 shooting, 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 assists. And with both Rose and Boozer pulling defenders away from him, he was able to do damage around the basket, hitting six of his eight layup attempts.
As for Noah, he obviously didn’t shoot the ball well, and he was limited to 21 minutes due to foul trouble, but he still ripped down 12 rebounds (6 offensive) and dished out six assists. And Rose finished with a game-high 9 assists. By comparison, the Thunder had 13 assists as a team.
Chicago dominated the paint, owning a 52-39 advantage on the boards and outscoring Oklahoma City 58-32 in the paint. In all, the Bulls converted on 20 of their 30 layup attempts and went 3-for-3 on dunks.
Like I said, this is why the Bulls brought in Boozer.
Look, the offense is still a work in progress. They aren’t “there” just yet. But you can see little differences. With all due respect to Taj Gibson — and I love the kid — he simply isn’t the offensive threat Boozer is. Basketball is a game of inches and split-seconds. The extra attention defenders have to pay Boozer means an extra half-inch or an extra millisecond here and there for his teammates. His very presence creates opportunities for the other Bulls.
Said Boozer: “The more easy buckets you get, it opens it up for everybody. Our whole mind set is to get as many easy buckets in transition, get layups, because once you get layups they start crowding the paint and it opens it up for our jump-shooters.”
You know, it’s funny. Sports fans in general, and NBA fan in particular, get a sort of perverse pleasure when things go wrong. (I should know. I founded Basketbawful.) When Boozer broke his hand, some people were quick to say, “I knew this was going to happen. Boozer is made of stained glass.” And when Carlos (and the rest of the team) struggled against the Magic and Celtics in Boozer’s first two games back, others jumped on the dog pile saying, “This is what you get with Carlos Boozer.”
You know what else you get? 20+ point games, 10+ rebound games, high-percentage shooting, inside-outside play, a proven player who demands respect from opposing defenses. You also get somebody who can reduce the burden on D-Rose, who’s probably spent the last couple seasons thinking, “If I don’t score 20+ points tonight, we won’t win.”
I should also give a gold star to Chicago’s defense, which held the Thunder to 35 percent shooting. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both went 7-for-18. James Harden was 3-for-12. Jeff Green shot 1-for-9. If it wasn’t for Nenad Krstic (18 points on 8-for-12 shooting), the Bulls might have won in a blowout.
Of course, the Thunder were playing the second night of back-to-back games. And I should also note that Durant — who led his team in scoring with 29 points — played only three minutes in the third quarter…during which the Bulls outscored the Thunder 29-18 to take command of the game. That was the only quarter Oklahoma City failed to score 20+ points. Coincidence? Probably not.
Said Thunder coach Scott Brooks: “We weren’t playing well and I tried to make adjustments, trying to create some more energy. [Sitting Durant] was my decision. I don’t know if it worked or not, but it was important that we figure out how to play better.”
Uhm, yeah, it didn’t work, Scott. But I’m okay with it.
As for the Bulls, things are starting to click. They are. And there’s every reason to suspect they’ll continue to click.
Said Boozer: “We’re getting better and better every day. It’s going to be exciting where we are 20 to 30 games from now.”
It sure is.
Quote of the Night:
Noah: “Boozington is doing his thing. And I feel like the scary thing is, we’re not even near where we need to be. His skill is undeniable. He’s a beast in the post and he’s been playing that pick and roll for a long time. He’s strong as an ox. He’s making us a lot better. He can pass. He always makes the right play. It’s never anything really forced out there. When we get our defense straightened out all together as a team, we have a chance to do something good.”
Almost Quote of the Night:
Boozer: “I’m not really satisfied. I have a long way to go. I’m still trying to get my legs back and my timing back. And I feel like I’m getting there every day with our offense, with our defensive sets and being in a good rythym. But I’m not satisfied, I’m hungry. I want more out of this. I’m not where I’m going to be at.”
Royce Young of the Daily Thunder: “I’m not an NBA coach and I don’t think I could win 50 games in that role. So I don’t question Scott Brooks much. But it’s hard not to wonder why Kevin Durant and Jeff Green only played two minutes and 46 seconds in the third quarter. When the two checked out, Oklahoma City was down 60-54. The Thunder weren’t playing well, but they were in the game. What was hurting OKC was the lack of any offensive rhythm. So when Durant and Green went to the bench with over nine minutes left in the third, it was curious. But you were thinking, ‘OK, quick blow here and they’re coming back.’ Instead, they sat the remainder of the quarter.”
Nick Friedell: “Did you ever think you would see a game where Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah would combine to go 6-for-21 from the field with 17 points, and the Bulls would win convincingly? Welcome to life with Carlos Boozer, Chicago.”
You know the kid is great when, in the midst of a 3-for-13 shooting night, he knocks down a 40-foot buzzer beater.