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Boozer, Noah not finding success together

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah compliment each other and talk about how easy it is to play together.

The only problem for the Bulls is that the fantasy of having both players healthy and on the floor is much different than the reality.

When Boozer came back to the lineup on Dec. 1 after sitting out the first month with a broken hand, Noah had already torn the ligament in his thumb which would put him out for two months and Boozer wasn't close to the player he had become earlier in the year. Once Noah finally returned on Feb. 23, he was still getting himself back in shape and it was clear that the pair wasn't used to playing with each other.

In the two-plus weeks they were together on the floor before Boozer sprained his ankle on March 9, Boozer's numbers took a downturn and the two looked confused at times when they were on the floor together.

With Boozer possibly coming back to the starting lineup Monday night against the Sacramento Kings, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau knows he's got to get the pair going in the post before his team sets off on a potentially long playoff run.

"I think they complement each other extremely well because both guys can pass the ball, both guys can shoot the ball from 15-17 [feet]," Thibodeau said. "The problem is that, I think, they haven't had a lot of time together because of injury. And Jo's just starting to come around offensively. His rebounding wasn't what it usually is against Indiana, but offensively I thought he was real comfortable with his post game."

Thibodeau didn't agree with the notion that Boozer and Noah didn't look comfortable with their spacing on the floor, but all you have to do is take a look at Boozer's numbers after Noah's return to know that something is up. After scoring 24 points against the Raptors on Feb. 23, Boozer averaged just 13 over his next eight games. It's a trend that Thibodeau and his players know they have to correct, but nobody is sure exactly what it will take to get Noah and Boozer on the same track.

"It's going to take some time," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "I really don't know what it's going to take. It's really up to them. It's going to take some time, but I think we can fight things off until they get back."

Thibodeau has a theory that he will employ if Boozer does play on Monday night.

"I think he was getting more attention in the post, double teams and people dropping down to him," Thibodeau said. "So we have to find different ways to get him a second look. And I think we're going to the quick swing instead of giving him that second look on the kick out. So then in transition we've got to search him out a little bit more ... The big thing is it gives you a big that you can throw the ball into and he's going to get something good for you.”

Neither Noah nor Boozer seem concerned.

"Carlos brings a whole different dimension to our team with his scoring ability and what he can do in the post," Noah said. "He's very unique in that way, in his ability to score the ball. And he's definitely going to be a great addition when he comes back.

“I love being on the court when Carlos is on the court. He brings attention because of what he can do on the pick and roll, and he takes up a lot of space, so I think he's definitely somebody who affects the game.”

Boozer knows he can be the second offensive option the Bulls desperately need -- and didn't have -- in Friday’s night loss in Indianapolis. And he knows that he and Noah could form one of the league’s best big men combinations.

"One of the things I'm able to help out [with] is play off my teammates," Boozer said. "I'm able to play off D. Rose great, give him options to pass the ball, and at the same time when you have that threat in the post, they've got to pay you some attention. It gets Kyle [Korver] easier shots. It gets Joakim easier lanes to drive to the basket, same thing for Luol [Deng], easy shots in the lane. I'm hoping to get back out there and help my teammates out."

As Bulls fans have learned this season, it's one thing to say it and another to do it. With just 14 regular season games left to play, the Bulls need Boozer to come back and be the offensive force they know he can be. And they need him to do it with Noah on the floor.

If he does, they become even more dangerous. If he doesn't, the long playoff run that everyone in Chicago is expecting may not come to pass.