By Mike McGraw
Warm weather and home cooking seemed to be an ideal combination for Carlos Boozer this week.
In victories over Miami and Orlando, the veteran power forward averaged 29 points, 11.5 rebounds and shot 64 percent from the field.
Boozer’s permanent residence is in Miami, and he often jets back during days off to visit his three young sons.
“I love it playing in front of my family,” Boozer said after the Bulls’ 96-89 victory over the Heat, according to csnchicago.com. “I had 70 people out there — family, friends. It’s good to get a win out there in front of all my people. It was fun.”
Of course, another explanation for Boozer’s recent success might be the defenses he faced. Miami’s rebounding-challenged crew didn’t accomplish much near the basket. Besides letting Boozer hit 12 of 17 shots, the Heat was outrebounded 48-28 on Friday.
Orlando center Nikola Vucevic raised some eyebrows by piling up 29 rebounds against the Heat earlier this week, but the Magic was missing its two best power forwards because of injury.
Boozer’s rise actually goes back four games. While recording four straight double-doubles, he has averaged 23.0 points, 12.3 boards and shot 54 percent.
“Thibs is coming to me,” Boozer told reporters after Friday’s game. “I’m playing off my teammates, trying to be aggressive. I have not really been as efficient a scorer this year, and that’s my New Year’s resolution, to be more efficient.”
“Our guys, the past couple of games, that ball’s been hopping,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “No one’s holding on to it, no one’s dancing with it, and that’s what you have to do to win.”
The Bulls have made it clear that momentum doesn’t count for much this season.
During the holiday season alone, they’ve won at New York, were blown off the floor by Houston, allowed Charlotte to snap its 18-game losing streak, then became just the third team to win at Miami — all in the span of two weeks.
“We know we can beat the best,” Joakim Noah said. “We can lose to the worst — it happened in the same week. At the end of the day you’ve just got to enjoy the process, and we’re going to enjoy it.”
While the Bulls spent an extra night at their luxurious Miami hotel and Derrick Rose inches toward his comeback, the rest of us are left to wonder if the Bulls can punish Miami on the boards during a playoff series that means something.
Heading into Friday’s action, the Heat ranked 29th in the league in rebounds per game.
The lineup hasn’t changed much since last season, but Miami is sticking with Chris Bosh at center more often, playing Udonis Haslem less and basically giving up on Joel Anthony, the best defensive big man on the roster.
“It’s killing us,” Bosh said, according to espn.com. “I’m out of recommendations. I’m trying to figure it out myself. It’s not the first time we’ve been outrebounded by 20. Who says that and is in first place in the East? We just have to keep fighting.”
“We’re not going to get bigger overnight,” Dwyane Wade added. “We have to find a way to fix it or we are going to keep losing those games. ‘Go get the ball’ is all we can do.”
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