Bulls support struggling Carlos Boozer

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau continues to defend Carlos Boozer despite the power forward's poor production throughout the playoffs.

"We need him out there," Thibodeau said after Thursday's practice. "His rebounding is critical for us, post presence, people collapse on him, so it opens up a lot of things for everybody. So he's got to just keep doing what he's doing. Each day he'll get better and better."

Boozer, who suffered a turf toe injury in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers on April 26, continues to struggle and has drawn the ire of Bulls fans. He was booed at the United Center during various points of Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

Thibodeau said that he doesn't think he needs to speak to Boozer about the backlash from fans.

"Look, Carlos has been in the league for a long time," Thibodeau said. "He's been through every situation you could possibly be through. He'll handle it fine. He's been a big-time player in this league for a long time, so he knows what he has to do."

Boozer, who averaged 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds in 59 regular-season games, is averaging 10.3 points on 38.2 percent shooting from the field and 10.0 rebounds.

And he has struggled to get his shot off, especially in close. Boozer is 6-of-14 inside of 5 feet (42.9 percent) against the Hawks, and he has had six shots blocked from that distance, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Boozer's teammates are confident he will bounce back.

"Carlos will get his rhythm," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "Carlos is out there, he's playing hurt. If it was regular season, all this talk wouldn't be happening, but he's given us a lot going out there with the bad toe. And it's tough. It's tough. It's one of those injuries that sounds, when you just say a toe, it doesn't sound like much, but it's an annoying injury.

"I know he'll get his rhythm, but I thought last night he was diving on the floor. He was hustling. For us, he was really playing well. I know that fans and [media] want to see more, but as long as we win that was enough."

Deng understands booing comes with the territory.

"That's going to be there," he said. "I've been here seven years. I know what it's like. For us, and for Carlos, we just got to ... we know what we're doing. Carlos knows what he's doing. He's putting in the work. We know he's putting in the work. All this talk from outside, we got to tune it out. We're trying to something within these walls. And we just got to keep on concentrating on that.

"Once we start listening to all that, I think all that stuff is just distractions. It's just distractions. Carlos is a proven great player in this league, and we have no doubt he will get his rhythm back. As a team, as long as we win, and Carlos gets his rhythm back, we'll even be better."

Deng is one of several teammates who has come out in defense of Boozer after Game 2. The bond between teammates is something Thibodeau appreciates about his team.

"Our team has been a together team from the start of the season," Thibodeau said. "This is the playoffs, you're going to be tested in a number of different ways. Sometimes things are going your way, sometimes they're not. Through it all, you got to stay together. So we don't want to change the way we do things. Each day we're going to look at the game, try to study, correct, get ready, and improve for the next game."

Boozer has averaged 18.9 points and 12.2 rebounds over 51 postseason games, giving Thibodeau confidence to stick with him.

"The thing is, he's nicked up," Thibodeau said. "He's given us everything that he has, and that's all we're asking him to do. The rebounding hasn't dropped off at all. He'll score. He'll score. This guy has scored his whole career. He'll score for us."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.