CHICAGO -- When things are going well in Carlos Boozer's world, he loves that he is just feeding off his teammates. The veteran forward goes out of his way to talk about their contributions because he doesn't usually like to talk about his own accomplishments.
The reality for the Chicago Bulls in this series is that while Boozer needs his teammates to set him up, his teammates need his presence and offensive aggressiveness more than ever. What was obvious in the first round against the Brooklyn Nets became even more obvious early in Game 3 against the Miami Heat as Boozer finally found the rhythm he's been missing for the last few games.
After scoring just 14 points combined in Games 1 and 2, Boozer rattled off 21 points in Friday night’s 104-94 loss and showed flashes of the player he had been throughout most of the season for Tom Thibodeau.
Boozer acknowledged that there are certain points where he feels more comfortable calling for the ball, as he was when he was rolling during the first quarter in Game 3.
"I do that at times," Boozer said. "But Coach Thibs is our general. He calls the different plays and adjusts to what the defense is doing and keeps them honest. We just run our playbook."
As the Bulls continue to seek out ways to score in this series, Thibodeau would be well served to find more ways to get Boozer involved early and often, as he was in this one. The reality for the Bulls is that without Luol Deng, Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, they only have so many guys that can score.
Boozer has shown over the course of his career that he has the ability to carry a team offensively in stretches. The Bulls need him to continue to do that from here on out. Boozer is too talented offensively to have performances like he did in Games 1 and 2 against the Heat. His activity on offense opens up the floor for the rest of his teammates and he plays much more confidently when he starts attacking the rim instead of settling for 18-foot fadeaway jumpers.
Thibodeau should make it a point to get the ball to Boozer early and make him a focal point in the offense. As far as the rest of the game plan, Boozer has a couple of ideas of his own.
"We have to close out quarters better," he said. "We did a decent job but we were giving away free throws. I thought we played well at times tonight. We just have to clean up some things and get the win on Monday. I thought we did a good job setting the tone early. It got a little physical out there. We just need to finish quarters better."
That's solid advice for his team, but the best words of wisdom for the oft-maligned big man are to continue to find a way to affect the game early. Boozer will never be the type of solid defender who fits nicely in Thibodeau's system, but he can be an offensive difference-maker that the Bulls can -- and should -- rely heavily on against a team that has more weapons and healthy talent.