Bulls looking to wrap up Heat in Game 3


May 22

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It didn’t seem like the best time for the NBA Finals shuffle, if that’s what Carlos Boozer’s entry into rap music was at the United Center during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

I can’t say I noticed with a heck of a game going on. But those 1985 Chicago Bears made their statement and backed it up, and if you are going to enter the music business during the conference finals, well, then it’s a good opportunity Sunday for Boozer to deliver as well.

“Obviously we feel like every game is a must win,” Boozer told reporters before he team departed for Miami Saturday afternoon. “That’s how we’ve been playing all season. We’re not going to change our mindset now. Every game we played this year we thought it was a must win. We have a must win mentality every game we play in. Obviously, Game 3 for us we feel like we have to win.

“We’ll do our stuff,” said Boozer. “We’ve done a lot of preparation. We’re as prepared as we can be for Game 3. Our intensity will be better, our focus will be better, and hopefully we’ll play better.”

No, the Bulls are not at the back to the walls cliché time yet, though they technically surrendered home court advantage with Miami’s win Wednesday with the series now 1-1. But the Bulls won the only game between the teams in Miami in March and haven’t lost consecutive games since February. Obviously, as Boozer might say, the team’s goal is to win a game in Miami and come home for a three game set with two in the United Center.

So it’s not a desperate time yet, though perhaps it is for Boozer, and for the Bulls investment in their major free agent.

After losing out on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Bulls moved quickly and successfully to wrest Boozer away from the New Jersey Nets, who also were making a large offer. It seemed like an excellent recovery as Boozer is regarded as a good low post scorer who could take some pressure off Derrick Rose. In 44 career playoff games, he’d averaged 20.3 points and 12.5 rebounds. And Boozer, after an early season injury, did average 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds, numbers that were reasonably in line with his career regular season averages.

But in the playoffs, it’s been difficult for Boozer, who hasn’t fared as well against the more physical Eastern teams. He did have a big 23 points and 10 rebounds in the clincher against Atlanta. In the opening round series with the Pacers, he had 17 points and 16 rebounds in the Game 2 win and 15 points and 13 rebounds in the Game 4 loss, solid efforts.

But overall, he is averaging 11.6 points and 9.3 rebounds on 43.9 percent shooting in the 13 playoff games and 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds against Miami. In the Game 2 loss Boozer was benched for the final 16:21.

It didn’t make the headlines of the Russell Westbrook benching in the Western Conference finals, but in a sense it’s just as significant.

You get the sense that Boozer could also be playing for his minutes in the lineup. As Thunder coach Scott Brooks effectively said with Westbrook, a second team all-NBA player this season, he’s going with whatever he believes it takes to win. Thibodeau seemed to have made much the same statement, although we’ve seen more such Boozer platoons with Taj Gibson during the regular season.

Though Boozer may feel he’s, as it were, getting a bad rap here.

It’s plucky of the Bulls to put together these sorts of hustling, intense efforts with a so called committee of interior players. But the plan was for Boozer to be the big scorer. In fact, before the season I remember saying I didn’t think Rose could be MVP because Boozer would take a lot of the scoring load.

He didn’t and the Bulls succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations.

So now is the relative silence about Boozer because no one is expecting him to do much more?

That would be a bigger issue the Bulls don’t quite want to face.

It’s difficult to imagine a continued successful playoff run with Boozer producing such modest numbers.

So then comes a rap song, which is generally not a good side vocation for NBA players as Shaq, Allen Iverson and Ron Artest should attest.

Is this so called bulletin board material: Bulls rappin’ while Heat not nappin’?

Maybe if Boozer were producing like Walter Payton and Richard Dent. Boozer’s got it in him, as evidenced by his past playoff performances. The question is whether it will come out of him.

Bulls players were quiet about Boozer’s musical debut, although it’s unclear whether that was because of the timing or they couldn’t understand the words.

I listened in taking a break from my usual selection of Bobby Rydell hits, and heard lyrics like, “I’m not losin,” The crowd is feelin’ me,” “Guess who they choosin’?” I heard the names of most of the Bulls players. The title was “Winning Streak” and done with singer Mario Winans, who is not related to the famous acting Winans brothers.

Here was some of the lyrics:

“Dream it, believe it, do it, let’s go;

Already know I cross ’em over, take it to the hole;

Look back, thank God, look forward, trust God;

That’s why when I’m in the paint you know I go hard;

Might go baseline one time and abuse ya;

Run back down the court like ‘You know it was Boozer!’

I used to be another li’l fella with some hoop dreams

Now I got the game laced up, shoestrings.”

I haven’t checked with coach Tom Thibodeau about this, though unconfirmed I have heard that he does like to write his own rap lyrics at times. Hey, who doesn’t these days in the NBA?

Perhaps the part about going hard in the paint came from him.

And Thibodeau says he’s in rhythm with Boozer.

“Just like with Derrick, the more we can run the floor and get out into transition before their defense gets set, it makes our offense much more efficient,” Thibodeau said before leaving for Miami, where it’s much sunnier and warmer out when you are watching game film.  “I think it also plays to what our strengths are, the ability for Joakim (Noah) to run the floor.  Carlos is a good runner. We have to try to get easy baskets. This series is going to be hard fought.  You’re going to have to earn everything.  I think we have to continue to search (Boozer) out different ways.  He has to get some more touches.  He’s got to be more active.” 

In any event, going into Game 3 in Miami two of the Bulls primary issues will be getting more space for Rose to go hard into the paint and turning some of the words into action for Boozer.

“We just got to bring it,” Boozer told reporters. “Bring it like we usually do. Bounce back, and correct the mistakes that we made, and play better. We feel like we could play better. At the end of the day, when you view the game, no matter how your defense was, you can play better defense.

“We shot a lot of jumpers,” said Boozer. “We’ll get back to driving and posting the ball and getting more inside out. Having a better mix of both. You have to make the other team miss so you can get out in transition. We have one of the fastest guys in the world on our team. We give him the ball in transition (then) we can all follow him and chase him. We have to get stops. Once we get stops, we get the ball in his hands, then run. Our goal is to win (Sunday). And we go from there.”

Goin’ to Miami;

Bringin’ my talents;

Bloggin’ for you and me; is the place to be;

Talkin’ to Tom;

Writin’ down 48 minutes;

Knowin’ steps you don’t want to skip;

Pina colada I may take a sip;

Lookin for stone crab at Joe’s

Rose is the one to get this team to go;

The next game’s the one;

Because the Bulls need it a ton.

Hey, this is fun.

It’s clearly long past time for a rapper in a sweater vest and saddle shoes. You’ve got some competition, Booz.

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