By Mike McGraw
After letting Charlotte snap an 18-game losing streak at the United Center on Dec. 31, the Bulls sat down and collectively made some New Year’s resolutions.
At least, that’s how the resurgent Carlos Boozer tells the story.
“We’re trying to step it up a little bit and get some more wins,” Boozer said following Monday’s 118-92 victory over Cleveland at the United Center. “We had a tough last couple of weeks of 2012. New Year, we got a couple new resolutions and the biggest one is get more wins.”
It’s not clear if Boozer is sharing a metaphor or the team actually got together, asked Kirk Hinrich to pull out a pencil and paper, then went to work on setting goals for 2013.
However it happened, the Bulls seem to be on the right track. Boozer continued his strong play by finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds, his fifth straight double-double.
He’s averaged 27.3 points in the first three contests of January, which includes sweeping a two-game trip to Orlando and Miami, followed by the Bulls’ 11th straight victory over Cleveland. Five of the last 6 wins against the Cavs have been by 26 points or more.
“We’re jelling,” Boozer said. “We work hard together. We hang out together. It’s like a college team. We all ride for each other, want everybody to do well. Games like this are fun, because everybody played so great. We like moments like this. We wish all the games could be like this.”
Boozer refused to provide any details of the players hanging out together during the extra day the Bulls spent in Miami. But the players do appear to be serious about turning things around. Besides the loss to Charlotte, the Bulls were blown out by Atlanta and Houston during the final 10 days of 2012.
“I think we realized we have more potential than we showed in the last couple weeks of 2012,” Boozer said. “Everybody’s just playing better, stepping up. Just playing a little bit better doing a little bit more and it’s turning into wins for us.”
The Bulls (19-13) dominated the glass against the Cavs, building a 47-31 advantage, and matched a season-high with 34 assists.
But the most interesting entry on the stat sheet was the 3-point shooting. The Bulls went 10-for-14 from long range Monday.
That’s compelling because they ranked last in the league with 4.6 made 3-pointers per game before this one. The Bulls even signed a 3-point specialist on Sunday, former Houston, Oklahoma City and Miami guard Daequan Cook. He played the final 2:07 of his Bulls debut and missed his only shot.
Everyone else couldn’t miss. Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson each went 3-for-4 from long range.
“It was just hot. Guys were hot,” Robinson said. “It happens. Hopefully we can keep it up, keep knocking the shots down. For us, the defense is key. It shows and now our offense is clicking. Hopefully we can keep riding this wave and we’ll be all right.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau feels improved 3-point shooting has been a trend for his team, though it’s always possible the presence of Cook provided some extra motivation. After the Bulls fell behind 30-22 in the first quarter, reserves Robinson (14 points), Belinelli (15 points) and Taj Gibson (18 points) led a second-quarter surge.
“They’re in rhythm now. That’s the biggest thing,” Thibodeau said. “It’s off ball movement. (The ball is) hitting the paint, coming out, (making) the extra pass. So they’re rhythm threes. Our percentage has slowly been creeping up. I think the first 15 games, it was around 29 percent. We’re taking the right ones now and I think that’s important.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.