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Boozer, Butler pushing forward

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- While Derrick Rose's absence and the team's rash of injuries have dominated the story lines for the Chicago Bulls this season, not all news has been bad.

Carlos Boozer has shown some much-needed durability while also being productive, while Jimmy Butler has raised his profile mightily with extended playing time afforded by the injuries to others. Both have been keys in assisting a hobbled club into the playoffs.

"I don't try to think about it, I just try to play incredibly hard every possession on the offensive end and the defensive end," Butler said. "Just play my role but expand it a little bit more. I feel like even though I'm starting you still have to be that energy guy and guard and hit an open shot. I feel like that's my role for this team if it's 20 minutes or 40 minutes."

Way back in November, Butler played over 22 minutes in a game just twice. In the month of December he played 30 minutes twice. By January, injuries allowed him to play 40 minutes in five consecutive games, with the Bulls winning four of them.

A 40-minute game is a common occurrence for him now. In the past eight games, he has hit the 40-minute mark seven times and in the one game that he didn't, he played 39 minutes. In those eight games he has averaged 14 points and 5.5 rebounds, compared to his season averages of 8.1 points and 3.7 rebounds.

Boozer's season numbers are just a touch under his career averages, an impressive feat for a 31-year old. And with the Bulls dealing with a rash of injuries, especially of late, he has averaged 19.6 points on over 53 percent shooting during the last eight games, not to mention the 12 rebounds per game in that stretch.

For a player who came to the Bulls with the reputation that he is injury prone, he has been the most dependable on a team that can't stay healthy.

"(Boozer) has been good for us," Thibodeau said. "His only injury was the accident he had at the beginning of his first year (with the Bulls). He never misses practice. You can count on him every game. He has been very durable, and I think it says a lot about the way he takes care of himself."

Even through some harsh criticism in his first few seasons with the Bulls, Boozer never lost his work ethic.

"He's a great pro," Thibodeau said. "He comes in and every day you can count on him. He doesn't get too high, he doesn't get too low. He's a very good teammate. He's done very well for us. He's played at a high level and when you look at him at the end of each season and what he's done for the year, he always measures up at the top."