Chicago will probably close out their first-round series tonight at home against the Pacers, but things haven’t exactly gone the way they were expected to. They’ve struggled to zoom past Indiana, having to come-from-behind in nearly every game against a 37-win team, and in Game 4 that finally came back to bite them.
Take away a big Game 2 (17 points, 16 rebounds) and Carlos Boozer has been perhaps the most disappointing Bull in this series. Take away that Game 2 and he’s only averaging 10.3 points. The rebounding is still there. It has to be, especially in a series where the Bulls are shooting under 40 percent from the field and Indiana isn’t much better at 41 percent. But offensively, he’s lost.
TNT analyst Charles Barkley has been on Boozer throughout the playoffs. At times, Boozer is floating in and out of games. While Derrick Rose is carrying Chicago, Boozer is playing down to Indiana’s level. Barkley is right; Boozer should be killing the Pacer frontline. Instead, he’s yet to make a big impact.
Some of that has to do with foul trouble. Boozer has sacrificed a rhythm to give fouls and end up on the bench. But according to some, especially former Bull, Scottie Pippen, he’s not even doing that right. Pippen told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday that Boozer needs to make better use of his fouls.
”They’ve all got two legs and two arms,” the six-time NBA champion said. ”You’ve got Carlos Boozer out there who’s spending fouls and a lot of his fouls are not needed at the time that he’s giving them. Those could be hard fouls. Those could be fouls that you knock a [Darren] Collison to the floor, you knock a [Jeff] Foster to the floor.
”Utilize your fouls and make them more valuable for you and your team.”
Then yesterday, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, came to his power forward’s defense, telling the Chicago Tribune that it’s easy to signal out Boozer for the Bulls lack of “dominance.”
“Just because his numbers aren’t what they were in previous playoffs … he’s still very important to what we’re doing,” Paxson said after the Bulls’ practice Monday. “The reality is we’re still up 3-1.
“We have a lot of guys who could be playing better in this series. But to throw that type of criticism on (Boozer) isn’t right. This is a team game.”
Paxson pointed to others factors that have contributed to Boozer’s offensive woes.
“I know that we need to get him the ball in better places,” Paxson said. “And also give Indiana credit. They’ve played a terrific series to this point.
“But I’m confident. Carlos is a veteran and a pro. I’m confident that a good game for him is right there waiting.”
Boozer is a pro, and he’s been one of the game’s better power forwards for the past five years. Chicago doesn’t need him to be great to beat Indiana. But as Barkley said, they aren’t trying to beat the Pacers. They’re trying to beat Boston and Miami. For that, Boozer has to play better.
How would you grade Boozer’s playoff run so far?
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