MILWAUKEE — Carlos Boozer hasn’t always been consistent on the court since joining the Bulls, but he has been remarkably repetitive when it comes to postgame interviews.
Boozer absolutely refuses to criticize anything to do with the team or coaching decisions, no matter how many nights he spends the fourth quarter glued to the bench.
Saturday would have been the perfect time for a “see what can happen when you leave me out there.”
Boozer was a catalyst down the stretch, finishing with 22 points and 19 rebounds, as the Bulls snapped their three- game losing streak with a 93-86 victory over Milwaukee at the Bradley Center.
But Boozer again passed on the chance. His 6 points and 5 rebounds during the fourth quarter would do all the talking.
Sure, he’s disappointed by sitting out so often in the fourth quarter. But he’s not going to publicly disagree with coach Tom Thibodeau.
“This is his show. He runs it,” Boozer said in the locker room. “He puts out there who he wants out there, and we just go with the flow.”
Richard Hamilton is another of the Bulls’ veterans who rarely plays in the fourth quarter. He also scored 22 points in Milwaukee but went 0-for-4 from the field in the final quarter.
“You never know how long you’re going to be out there, if you’re going to go back in the fourth quarter,” Boozer added. “Me and Rip talked about it before the game — just be aggressive while you’re out there and see what happens. That’s kind of been our mentality the last few games, and it was going great tonight.
“We want to be out there every fourth quarter. But that’s Thibs’ decision.”
Offensive rebounds were the difference down the stretch. The Bulls (6-6) finished with 20 offensive boards and outscored the Bucks 25-5 in second-chance points.
During the final five minutes, the Bulls missed 9 shots and grabbed 7 offensive rebounds. The go-ahead basket came after the first of those offensive boards. A Boozer rebound set up a Nate Robinson jumper to put the Bulls up 83-81 with 4:46 remaining.
On the next trip, Boozer grabbed a Luol Deng miss and put it in to send the Bulls ahead by 4.
They grabbed 2 more offensive boards on the next possession but came up empty. After a Milwaukee misfire, Deng tipped in a Hamilton miss to make it 87-83 with 2:12 left.
Mike Dunleavy’s runner brought the Bucks within 2 points, and Milwaukee (6-5) missed a chance to tie. The Bulls built some breathing room when Noah missed a short bank but Boozer slammed in the rebound to send the Bulls back up by 4 with 29.8 seconds left.
“I thought tonight we really understood time and possession,” Hamilton said. “We got away from the quick shots in the fourth quarter and things like that. We were able to get the ball in the paint, and when you get the ball in the paint, good things happen for your offense.”
Bucks guard Brandon Jennings appeared to turn his ankle as he missed a wild runner on Milwaukee’s next trip. Jennings (23 points) was carried into the locker room by a pair of teammates, and the Bulls finished it off at the foul line.
Another key for the Bulls was hitting 25 of 26 free throws, compared to just 7 of 10 for Milwaukee.
“If we are going to give them 20 offensive rebounds and have that kind of free-throw disparity, really the only way we can make up for that is by knocking down 3s, and we didn’t do that, either,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said.
“So it was kind of a grind-it-out game, and when it really came time to grind it out, they did it to us. They got all of the boards and pushed us around. They took it from us.”
Deng added 14 points for the Bulls, while Kirk Hinrich scored 10 — just his second double-digit scoring game of the season.
These teams will meet again Monday at the United Center. While the Bulls snapped their longest regular-season losing streak of Thibodeau’s tenure Saturday, they have won nine straight against Milwaukee.
“We don’t want to be used to losing at all, whether it’s one game or three games,” Boozer said. “Hopefully we’re starting a new streak. It’s going to be tough on Monday to play this team again, but we’re up for that challenge and it will be fun.”
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