As the Bulls struggled to get anything going offensively during the second half of Wednesday’s Game 2 loss to the Heat, Carlos Boozer, the team’s most effective low-post weapon and second-leading scorer, sat on the bench.
Naturally, as Chicago tries to find ways in which it can be more consistent offensively – following up a 103-point outburst in Game 1 with a 75-point clunker in Game 2 – the conversation at Saturday’s practice shifted to Boozer.
“This series is going to be hard fought,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “You are going to have to earn everything. I think we need to continue to search [Boozer] out in different ways. He’s gotta be more active. So it’s a compilation of things. We know the one thing: When he’s getting touches and when he’s aggressive, he’s very difficult to stop down there.”
Thibodeau emphasized that Boozer can be a beneficiary of the Bulls playing at a fast pace, unlike the plodding half-court contest that Tuesday’s eventual loss devolved into.
“It’s the same thing, just like with Derrick [Rose],” Thibodeau said. “I think the more we can run the floor and get out into transition before their defense gets set, it makes our offense much more efficient. I think it also plays to what our strengths are … We gotta try to get easy baskets. If the defense is set, now you gotta move the defense. Now the clock starts working against you. If you’re settling for long jumpers at the end of the shot clock, you’re not going to be very successful against this team.”
Boozer echoed his coach’s preference to play up-tempo basketball.
“Well we gotta run,” Boozer said. “The thing about getting easy baskets is you gotta make the other team miss, so you can get out in transition. We got one of the fastest guys in the world on our team (Rose). But to get the ball to him in transition where we can follow him and chase him, we gotta get stops. Once we get stops we’ll get the ball in his hands so we can run.”
Boozer’s lack of production is hardly the Bulls’ only concern on the offensive end. Chicago hit just 3-of-20 shots from long range on Wednesday night. That number isn’t going to result in many playoff victories.
“The thing is, when you’re 3-for-20 from 3, you analyze how you’re getting the 3s,” Thibodeau said. “Often times it was off penetration and post up. Then the other thing is the fact that we were able to get to the line 26 times. You know we didn’t convert, so that’s you’re getting to the line because you’re driving and posting the ball. You just gotta do it with more force. You gotta have that balance. Even on the kickout we don’t have to settle for the 3. We can re-post and we can drive.”
While the offense has been stagnant at times this season, the Bulls’ approach to each game, in terms of intensity, has been a strength. That remains the case, according to Boozer.
“We feel like every game is a must-win,” Boozer said. “That’s how we’ve been playing all season. We’re not going to change our mind-set now. Every game we played this year we felt like was a must-win. … Obviously Game 3 for us we feel like we have to win it. We have to win every game we play.”