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updated: 4/28/2014 9:38 PM

Help wanted: Boozer needs help to produce in 1st quarter

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  • Carlos Boozer needs his teammates to start hitting outside shots in order for him to be more effective scoring in the post.

      Carlos Boozer needs his teammates to start hitting outside shots in order for him to be more effective scoring in the post.
    Associated Press

  • Carlos Boozer is averaging 9.5 points per game against the Wizards while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

      Carlos Boozer is averaging 9.5 points per game against the Wizards while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.
    Associated Press

 
 

Unless the Bulls rally to win this playoff series against Washington, the next loss will end the Carlos Boozer era in Chicago.

It's impossible to imagine a scenario where Boozer is on the roster next season, mostly because his $16.8 million contract is such a deterrent to retooling the lineup. The one scenario where the Bulls don't use the amnesty clause is if they can find a way to trade him, and that's not likely.

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So how will it end? Boozer might be a convenient scapegoat for the Bulls' slow starts against the Wizards. He played the entire first quarter of Sunday's Game 4 loss and did not score, going 0-for-2 from the field.

But the fact is, Washington does not respect the Bulls' outside shooters and is packing the paint to prevent Boozer from getting the ball. In Game 3, when Mike Dunleavy knocked down a couple early 3-pointers, it opened things up. That night, Boozer scored 8 points and hit 4 of 6 shots in the first quarter.

The Wizards put more focus on not letting Dunleavy get open looks Sunday and the results were painful. The Bulls fell behind 14-0 before Jimmy Butler finally hit a jumper with 7:48 left in the first quarter. There was a similar bad start in Game 2, when the Bulls fell behind 29-12.

Boozer is an easy guy to target as needing to step up in the first quarter and provide some high-percentage offense, but he needs room to operate. Trailing 3-1 in the series, the Bulls will host Washington for Game 5 on Tuesday (7 p.m., CSN/TNT).

"(Outside shooting) is huge," coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday at the Berto Center. "I think what it does is it makes the defense be honest. You can never have enough shooting.

"That's the one thing that Washington has done in building their team. They've surrounded John (Wall) with great shooting. That has helped him a ton."

The Bulls are hoping to add some shooters this summer by creating roster flexibility, but the problem at hand is keeping the season alive by winning Tuesday. That will be easier if the guys they have knock down some shots.

"The thing is, we were for 4-for-19 (from 3-point range in Game 4) and I believe they were 8-for-19," Thibodeau said. "When you're making shots, it opens up the floor. The game before we were 12-for-24 from 3. That made a big difference. We have to shoot the ball better."

Mike Dunleavy's 8-for-10 shooting performance in Game 3 is the obvious standout in this playoff series. Overall, the Bulls have shot 32.5 percent from 3-point range (26 of 80), with Washington at 40.3 percent (29 of 72).

A reasonable expectation might be Dunleavy, D.J. Augustin, Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler combining to make 10 baskets from 3-point range in a game. Against the Wizards, Augustin is shooting 7 of 22 from behind the arc, Butler 4 of 16 and Hinrich 3 of 14.

Boozer's career playoff average is 17.5 points. In this series, he's averaged 9.5 points, but isn't that far off his usual production per minute played. He's also shooting a respectable 45.7 percent from the field.

Taj Gibson, playing the same position as Boozer, has been the Bulls' top scorer (19.8 ppg). That's a credit to Gibson's activity on the glass and improving post moves. It might also help that he usually checks into the game with Augustin, who draws respect from the opposing defense.

The Bulls have at least one more chance to get this right. As Thibodeau likes to say, it's a five-man offense.

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