CHICAGO -- This game was hard to watch for Chicago Bulls fans, and I'm not just talking about the two times when Derrick Rose was writhing on the floor in pain after spraining his wrist and tweaking his ankle.
After racing out to a 17-point lead in the first quarter, the Bulls took their foot off the gas and allowed the Indiana Pacers, playing without Danny Granger, to creep back in the game. The second quarter resembled the Bulls’ usual first-quarter malaise. They couldn't hit shots, the offense was stagnant and the defense didn't look crisp. Indiana outrebounded the Bulls 19-8 in the second quarter, gaining more confidence as the seconds passed. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had seen enough.
"Plain and simple, Coach Tibs just said they kicked our butt in the second quarter on the boards," Carlos Boozer said. “I don't know what it was, but it wasn't pretty. Usually we're a dominant rebounding team and the entire halftime he talked about our non-rebounding in the second quarter. That's been the mark of our team, why we've been able to win games, because we've been able to dominate the boards. So we had a concerted effort to go out there and rebound the ball in the second half. I thought we did a much better job of attacking the rebounds."
That mentality, along with Boozer's solid play, lifted the Bulls to their sixth straight win. The power forward had a monster night, going off for 22 points and 18 rebounds. For the second time in a week, he showed the Bulls just how valuable he can be when Rose and Joakim Noah can't get things going.
"He's a guy where attacking, that's what he do," Rose said. "He's starting to finish way better, get in the groove of the game, finishing with both hands. Him and Joakim work very well off each other during the late game [situations]. And that's what we need from him."
Boozer's ability to score down low helped push the Bulls out of their funk. His energy off the glass during the second half helped get the team on track. He is slowly becoming the security blanket down low that the Bulls had hoped he would be.
"Carlos is just getting better and better," Noah said. "We're just starting to play together so that pick and roll with him and Derrick is looking real tough. It's definitely an aspect we haven't had in the past, somebody who can really score down low. Booze is about the right things and he's definitely affecting the game so it's good."
Boozer realizes that he still isn't where he'd like to be as far as a rhythm goes, but he is getting much closer.
"We're just trying to get better every day," Boozer said. "We don't really look where we are, we're just trying to look where we're trying to go. We have a lot of improvements to make. For example, this season there hasn't been a lot of games where we were up by a lot on a team and [Monday] we had the mistake of easing up a bit and they came back. For us, we got to do a better job when we get up on teams to put the hammer down."
He's right. If they don't, they're not going to be as fortunate at the end of the year as they have been in the beginning.