People talk about whether or not Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah can play well together.
Heck, what about Boozer and Derrick Rose? With Rose taking another day off with the nagging left-toe injury, Boozer took over Tuesday night, scoring a season-high 31 points in an easy 118-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns at the United Center.
Boozer's numbers could have been bigger. He had 26 points at halftime, missed a few bunnies in the third quarter and sat out the entire fourth, thanks to the lopsided score. He ended up hitting 14 of 21 shots.
“We came out with a great sense of focus,” Boozer said. “For us, we wanted to get back out there and play after playing so poorly (in Memphis on Monday). We couldn't wait to get back on the court tonight.”
There has been some grumbling over the past two seasons about Boozer's inconsistent play. Following Tuesday's victory, he offered no sense of relief or satisfaction. The Bulls improved to 13-3, so really, nothing is going all that badly right now.
“I don't really worry about that,” Boozer added. “I worry about how we play as a team and how we win. I'm not worried about my shot. My shot will be there. My main focus is how we do as a group of guys. As long as we get wins, we're happy.”
The Bulls ended up with a new backcourt for this game because C.J. Watson, who has been out with an elbow sprain, stepped in as the starting point guard, while veteran Richard Hamilton returned from 11 game off with a groin strain.
Watson scored 23 points while hitting 8 of 12 shots from the field. Hamilton produced 11 points and 6 assists, which tied for the team lead with Kyle Korver.
Hamilton's presence and unselfishness was offered as one reason the Bulls piled up 31 assists as a team, compared to just 6 turnovers.
“It was fun,” Hamilton said. “I thought we really made plays for each other. I thought we made the easy play. We really didn't take any difficult shots.”
“It was great to have Rip back in the lineup,” Boozer added. “It was great to have C.J. back in the lineup. Missing D-Rose, we've got to all step up, and I think we did tonight.”
A few more entries on the positive side were 13 points and 12 rebounds from Joakim Noah, his second double-double in the past four games and third of the season. Backup center Omer Asik contributed a season-high 11 points.
The Bulls led 39-31 after a fast-paced first quarter and never looked back. The game was essentially a blowout for the final three quarters.
“Rip was terrific, not so much with his shooting, but with his playmaking to start the game,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The ball hopped. It was moving freely. Once we got into a rhythm, shots were falling for us.”
Now the Bulls have something unfamiliar on the schedule — consecutive days off for the first time in three weeks and their first practice since Jan. 2.
“It's going to be so unusual,” Thibodeau joked.
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