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updated: 2/4/2014 12:10 AM

Bulls' Boozer frets, ejected Noah fumes in 29-point loss

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  • Bulls forward Carlos Boozer expressed his frustration Monday over his lack of fourth-quarter playing time.

      Bulls forward Carlos Boozer expressed his frustration Monday over his lack of fourth-quarter playing time.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Bulls found a formula to get Carlos Boozer some fourth-quarter minutes, but it's not something they want to repeat.

Joakim Noah was ejected after picking up 2 technical fouls within three minutes of the third quarter. His profane message to the three referees on his way off the court will certainly earn him a fine and maybe a suspension.

Meanwhile, the Bulls shot 28.2 percent from the field -- their lowest total in more than 10 years -- and were thumped by Sacramento 99-70 on Monday at Sleep Train Arena. Last year, they lost in the same building by 42 points.

Earlier in the day, Boozer complained about his lack of playing time in the fourth quarter. Against the Kings, Boozer produced 8 points and 9 rebounds. He played much of the fourth quarter in place of Noah, whose streak of double-digit rebounding games ended at 18.

Jimmy Butler led the Bulls (23-24) with 17 points. Sacramento (16-32) snapped a seven-game losing streak, but enjoyed the return of top scorer DeMarcus Cousins (25 points) from seven games off with an ankle injury.

It's tough to tell whether Boozer has a point about playing in the fourth quarter, because there is so little evidence to support his case. During seven of the Bulls' previous eight games, Boozer didn't play at all in the fourth quarter. He sat out the Jan. 22 win in Cleveland with a sore calf.

The lone fourth-quarter appearance during that stretch was 9 minutes against Minnesota last week. Boozer contributed 6 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds in the loss to the Timberwolves.

"I think I should be out there," Boozer told reporters at the morning shootaround, according to espn.com. "But it's (coach Tom Thibodeau's) choice. He makes the decisions out there, so I play. I don't coach. He coaches. So he decides that.

"But honestly, he's been doing that a lot since I've been here, not putting me in in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we win; more times than not, we don't. But that's his choice."

It's hard to say the Bulls would be better off with Boozer playing in the fourth quarter. During their 11-5 run since Jan. 1, Boozer has sat out the entire fourth quarter 11 times (missing three of those games with injuries) and played more than four minutes just once, in the Minnesota game.

The veteran power forward would probably admit he's not a strong individual defender. After a game like Saturday's loss in New Orleans, when the Bulls fell 88-79, it's easy to see why Boozer thinks his offensive skills might have helped the cause.

As controversies go, this one is pretty soft. Every player at every level of basketball wants to get out there and help the team late in a game. During his four seasons with the Bulls, Boozer has not been a complainer.

Taking a look at the Bulls' fourth-quarter statistics, the reason for Boozer's fourth-quarter inaction is obvious. Taj Gibson, the guy who usually replaces him, ranks second on the team in points and field-goal percentage in the fourth quarter, and is third in plus-minus rating.

D.J. Augustin is the Bulls' best fourth-quarter scorer, at 4 points per game. That's not a very high number. The league leader in fourth-quarter scoring is Golden State's Steph Curry at 7.4.

Mike Dunleavy is the team's most accurate fourth-quarter shooter at 50 percent, followed by Gibson at 49 percent. The best plus-minus down the stretch belongs to Kirk Hinrich, followed by Joakim Noah.

Looking beyond the last eight games, there were several times when Boozer played between two and three minutes in the fourth quarter. Typically, he'd check in for Gibson at about the four-minute mark, then leave for the final minute.

"It's very frustrating, especially when I've got a great game going or what have you," Boozer added. "Obviously as a competitor, you want to be out there to help your team win and especially when the game is close. You can do things that can help your team win. Not being out there, all you could do is really cheer them on. But that's his choice."

•Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls.

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