Boozer returns; Thibodeau calls Deng “invaluable”


Jan 22

Carlos Boozer returned to the Bulls’ lineup on Saturday against Cleveland, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds during 35 minutes of action in a 92-79 win that handed the Cavaliers their 16th consecutive defeat.

While Boozer’s numbers were good and his team got the win, he acknowledged there is plenty of room for improvement for both himself and the Bulls.

“I was a little rusty,” said Boozer. “I didn’t have the lift I wanted to have. I couldn’t rebound the way I wanted to. I pushed through it, though. They played us tough. We got up by a few points but they came right back in the game.

“We made the right plays at the end of the game to win the game,” Boozer continued. “We shouldn’t have been in a dogfight to win the game like that. We’re not proud of that. We have to clean some stuff up, continue to get healthy, and look forward to the next one.”

Boozer reclaimed his spot as the team’s starting power forward and turned in a performance that had started to become customary before he sprained his ankle Feb. 15 against the Miami Heat. And while he didn’t sound like he was 100 percent, said his ankle felt good enough to go.

“It’s more of a soreness than a sharp pain,” said Boozer. “I can deal with it. I didn’t have the explosion I wanted to have on a few rebounds. It will get better as we continued to rehab it.”

Boozer had missed the previous three games due to the sprained ankle. In his absence, the Bulls won two out of three, despite also being without Joakim Noah.

“Some good, some bad,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of getting Boozer back on the court. “Mostly what I expected. He had a week off without doing anything. He still had 20 and 10. He had one practice. He will get better and better.”

In 26 games this season, Boozer has now posted 16 games with 20 or more points (including four games with 30 or more points) and 17 games with 10 or more boards. With Boozer, the Bulls have gone 19-7.

Taj Gibson, who has averaged 10.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 1.83 bpg in 18 starts this season, returned to his role as a reserve.

Thibodeau on Deng: “He’s invaluable”

Derrick Rose’s MVP-caliber season is drawing national attention. And Boozer and Noah certainly enjoy their share of the limelight. Meanwhile, Luol Deng has quietly enjoyed a very good season characterized by consistency and durability.

Deng, averaging 17.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 39.2 minutes per game, has scored in double-digits 37 times this season and hasn’t missed any of Chicago’s 43 games. He’s fifth in the NBA in minutes per game, good for second in the Eastern Conference.

“He’s invaluable when you look at all the things he provides,” said Thibodeau. “When you look at what he’s done, he’s a complete player. People overlook what he contributes to our team. I know his teammates and the coaching staff certainly appreciate all he does because he’s a big part of winning here.”

Too big, too fast, too strong, too good…

On Thursday, Derrick Rose tallied a game high 26 points to go along with nine assists and seven boards versus Dallas. Rose’s performance was unusual in the fact that no teammate scored 10 or more points.

Over the last 10 seasons, only two other teams won a game in which just one player scored in double-figures: the Cavaliers behind a 37-point night by LeBron James three years ago and the Lakers with a 62-point performance by Kobe Bryant in December 2005. The Bulls had only one other such victory in team history, behind Michael Jordan’s 45 points against the Sonics in 1997 (Elias Sports Bureau).

Bulls vs. Cavaliers season notes

Chicago owns a commanding lead in the all-time series, 103-79 (.566), including a 62-30 (.674) mark in games played in the Windy City, and 41-49 (.456) in Cleveland … Chicago took the first two games of the season series (88-83 in Cleveland and 100-91 in Chicago) … in their first meeting, Derrick Rose led all scorers with 29 points, while Joakim Noah grabbed 14 boards for the Bulls … in their second game, three Bulls players scored 20 or more points (Derrick Rose-28, Luol Deng-23, Carlos Boozer-20) … Chicago last won the season series with Cleveland in 2007-08, when the Bulls went 3-1 against the Cavs … against Cleveland last year, Derrick Rose averaged 17.0 ppg and 9.3 apg in 33.3 mpg … in their four games last season Cleveland outscored Chicago 96.5 ppg to 91.8 ppg.

Audio—Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau’s pregame comments (01.22.11):

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