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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Boozer rolling with best stretch as a Bull

By Nick Friedell

Carlos Boozer, LeBron James
Carlos Boozer is averaging 22.6 points and 11.2 rebounds over his last 10 games.
BOSTON -- Carlos Boozer swears that nothing has changed.

When he is asked why his numbers have shot up this month, he replies the same way. He passes off the credit to his teammates and talks about how the Bulls are playing better since the calendar turned to 2013. He did the same thing Wednesday after scoring a season-high 36 points to go along with 12 rebounds in an overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors.

"It's just playing, man," Boozer said. "Playing off my teammates, hoopin', having fun, trying to win. It's that simple. There's no new recipe to it."

While the recipe may be similar, it's clear that Boozer has been using different ingredients lately. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Boozer averaged 13.7 points and 9.2 rebounds over his first 27 games. Over his last 10 games, Boozer has had the best stretch of his Bulls' career, averaging 22.6 points and 11.2 rebounds.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau isn't surprised by the way Boozer has responded lately. He always stood up for Boozer publicy even when Boozer under-performed.

"The guy's done this," Thibodeau said. "There are tapes of what he's done. And he's done it for us, too. He can score a lot of different ways. I think right now he's in a really good rhythm. I think his teammates are really searching him out."

That seems to be the key for Boozer of late. Without Derrick Rose on the floor and with the Bulls finally settling into an offensive rhythm, Boozer knows he is going to get the ball early and often. He knows he is going to get his touches and his teammates know where to find him.

"I think the last month he's been incredible," Bulls guard Richard Hamilton said. "I think we're doing a better job of getting him the ball where he's comfortable. We got a lot of new pieces and a lot of new players and Thibs is adjusting on the fly with trying to find out what different guy's roles is and things like that. So we're learning each and every day but he's been great the last month. He's been playing extraordinarily."

The numbers back that up. Boozer has racked up a double-double in nine of his last 10 games and ranks fifth in the NBA in that category this season. He may not ever win back fans who have been turned off by his inconsistent play over the past two years, but he is showing more than flashes of the player the Bulls thought they were getting in when they signed him as a free agent in 2010.

"It's interesting because he's sort of a lightning rod for our team," Thibodeau said. "He really has played well since he's been here. He got hurt his first year which set him back a little bit, but at the end of every season where you look at where he ranks statistically he's always at the top at his position. More importantly, when you look at the wins the last two years and that's the most important thing. I think he and (Joakim) Noah have played extremely well together, and he plays to win and I think that's important."

The question now is can he keep it going?

"Boozer's great," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "We need it. He's just got to keep it up. We're going to keep looking for him, we're going to keep going to him. He's playing well for us right now. When we get points in the paint it makes the game a lot easier."