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Boozer thrives with Noah out

MINNEAPOLIS -- Derrick Rose finally said what every Bulls fan has been thinking as it pertains to Carlos Boozer and his production when Joakim Noah is not on the floor.

"He's way more aggressive," Rose said after Boozer dropped 24 points and 14 rebounds on Wednesday night in a 108-91 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. "I think he changed the game totally, where his double teams, you could definitely throw the ball into him in the post and let him do him. When people double team him it opens up everything on the court."

Granted, the Timberwolves are absolutely awful. That should be noted before we go any further because there's a solid chance that both Noah, who sat out the game with a sprained right ankle, and Boozer would have had good games.

But Boozer's ability to score and operate without Noah, especially on the offensive end cannot be overlooked. He simply looked like a different player without Noah on the floor. Rose and his teammates knew it from the beginning and decided to get him the ball early and often. They know what happens when Boozer gets fed from the outset.

"His confidence is going to be high," Rose said. "Tonight he was doing everything, had a big night for us, and that's what we need him to do every night."

But how can that happen when Noah comes back on the floor?

Nobody has that answer with just eight regular season games left. For his part, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau sidestepped an answer as to why Boozer seems more comfortable on the floor without Noah, by reminding everyone that Boozer is finally feeling better again.

"I think for Carlos, the last two days, he practiced really, really well," Thibodeau said. "And I think he's starting to get healthier. So when he's healthy, and he's practicing hard, he's going to play well. He's proven that. So we've just got to keep building as we move forward."

Thibodeau can talk about building all he wants, but the fact remains that Boozer is simply more assertive player on the offensive end when Noah is not playing with him. It's been the case all year on the few occasions both men have been healthy enough to be on the floor together.

"It's just a little different," Boozer said of how his role changes without Noah on the floor. "Because Kurt [Thomas] is a pick and pop guy. And so it opens up spacing out there. Like you saw in the first quarter, they collapsed a little bit on me and gave him wide open jump shots. And as the game went along, they started getting closer and closer and closer to Kurt and it gave us more space to operate in the middle."

That strategy worked great on Wednesday night against a bad team. The question is: How is it going to work when Noah returns and the Bulls have to face off against a very good one in May? That's the answer they still can't seem to come up with and it's the one they need the most.