Boozer terminates the Timberwolves


Oct 20

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So how do you like me now, Carlos Boozer might have been saying Friday night in the Bulls’ 92-81 preseason victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Boozer didn’t say anything of the sort as he doesn’t much speak that way. But it was the kind of game—24 points, mostly with strong post moves, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals—that many around Chicago have hoped for from Boozer, the guy the fans most want to see do more.

“Carlos did a phenomenal job getting himself going early and that’s what it is going to take,” said Taj Gibson, who was his usual hard headed hard hat off the bench with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Which culminated with a classic block against Derrick Williams that led to a Richard Hamilton fast break basket that effectively clinched the game after the Timberpups (missing their angriest wolves in Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic) had closed within 10 midway through the fourth quarter.

The win gave the Bulls a 3-2 preseason record with two games left, Tuesday at home against Oklahoma City and Friday in South Bend against the Pacers.

Carlos BoozerBut what was most vital to the Bulls pre-Derrick Rose recovery hopes was the effort of the man we may call, at least for the night, the Boozinator.

“I like the way that Carlos played tonight,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “He is practicing well. Tonight he got into a good rhythm. We have to seek him out more. The guys did a good job of getting the ball to Carlos. When he has his feet in the lane and showing you his number, we have to get him the ball. Carlos’ effort on the boards was good. Tonight he was a multiple effort guy. He is capable of doing that all the time.”

Sure, the opposition wasn’t exactly the strongest. Boozer was defended mostly by Dante Cunningham, Greg Steisma. Lou Amundson, Mike Smrek and Granville Waiters.

OK, not the last two. But let’s say with Pekovic and Love out, it looked at times as if the Timberwolves had brought their D-League team.

Which wasn’t a thrill for Thibodeau in having to bring most of the starters back into the game in the fourth quarter to finish the game out.

“We are nowhere near where we need to be,” said Thibodeau. “We are a 48-minute team. But we have been sporadic. We started the game great, (then) the turnovers hurt us and we need to clean that up. We have got to be better (in the fourth quarter). The intensity level is different. We have to execute better and we need to watch our spacing. We need to recognize the matchups and go to the hot hand. We are playing hard and we need to be playing smart. We have to do it collectively. When we are standing and dancing with the ball, that is when we get into trouble. When the ball moves freely, good things happen for us.”

It wasn’t really a bad effort as Hamilton looked good and had 15 points. Luol Deng seems to be smartly pacing himself as he added 14 with a pair of threes. Deng often was playing with four reserves, the only starter doing so, a signal again that perhaps Thibodeau isn’t going to be happy with Deng sitting much.

Nazr Mohammed again was cool offensively off the bench and the surprise of preseason with three of four shooting. Marco Belinelli struggled again missing all five shots, and Nate Robinson, as he will, got everyone’s heart racing. Classic Nate was a second quarter sequence when he broke out of the backcourt and went all the way for a reverse layup and on the next possession dribbled into traffic on a fast break out of control, lost the ball and Minnesota scored. Still, he rebounds remarkably well for being smaller than the concession stand guys and again made plays.

Joakim Noah added 12 rebounds as the Bulls had it pretty easy on the boards against the small Timberwolves. But Noah missed all six field goal attempts and remained in danger of ruining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s reputation as an offensive coach. We’re assuming Noah is saving his improved hook shot for the regular season. Yes, I’m on board with that.

Though the story of this game was Boozer and how effective he can be.

And it wasn’t just who he was playing against. Banging inside, making aggressive moves, showing a drop step and drop back jumper, Boozer would have had that sort of game against just about any defense. Often the key to get him going is his jump shot, and it was going early Friday.

Kirk Hinrich, with just five points but eight assists, did a good job pushing the ball out of the backcourt early. And Boozer is often best playing on the run before the defense can set. Scoring, obviously, is going to be an issue for the Bulls this season, and there was a late murmur from the crowd as the Bulls were passing 90 points. Scoring 100 means free Big Mac hamburgers. I’d say buy McDonald’s stock this year. They’re not giving away many of those burgers this season.

So, yes, the Bulls will win with defense, which is no surprise.

But if Boozer can provide that sort of offense, and thus draw the defense, heck, Belinelli may even make a shot.

The Bulls opened with a 14-2 edge thanks to Hinrich pushing and Boozer finishing in what was a Boozer de force of wonderful virtuosity and strength. It was Boozer spinning inside, bumping defenders out of the way, shooting jumpers and generally occupying the defense. When Thibodeau brought back the starters late to settle the offense, he went to Boozer out of a timeout and Boozer scored on a strong post up move to keep Minnesota from making a further dent before Gibson’s closing defensive sequence.

Jimmy Butler, though playing just 11 minutes, showed good activity and a nice jump shot while Marquis Teague got three early minutes in which he got run over defensively and didn’t play after halftime. Thibodeau likely will want to keep him closer to him.

Overall, it was an average to good effort with 16 turnovers and 41.8 percent shooting, but forcing 21 turnovers. Though Boozer was much above average, which was particularly welcome for Thibodeau and the team’s hopes of a strong first half.

“I think we are getting more comfortable,” said Gibson. “Guys are getting their timing together, everybody is coming together. We’re moving the ball real well. It felt good.”

Certainly seeing that Carlos Boozer.

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