The question the Chicago Bulls had to ask themselves was is there a basketball team underneath Derrick Rose? It’s a sad fact that we have all but forgotten what it’s like to see him on the court, and the way we’ve been talking about him merely in passing casts a dark shadow over this season.
But there is a team underneath the MVP of the NBA, and two guys are in control of awakening it and guiding it’s powers to victory.
They also happen to be the two most criticized and scapegoated players in Chicago next to Jay Cutler and Alfonso Soriano. And although guys like Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer have been stepping up as of late, the key to victory for the Bulls and the only way they can continue to buy bonus time in the 2012 playoffs is Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng.
If the Bulls want to win in the first round and avoid a understandable but nevertheless embarrassing exit from the playoffs, then they need to work 9 to 5.
Before the Derrick Rose era in Chicago, Luol Deng was an overpaid lottery bust who couldn’t lead this team. This season was his first All-Star selection and that fact brought back ill feelings that some of the more radical fans in Chicago have towards Deng. His less then stellar playoff performance up to Game 5 didn’t help either.
However, Deng has been playing injured all season long, a fact that is washed over due in large part to the endless injuries to Derrick Rose.
Carlos Boozer has no injury excuse to lean on for his play. But he can thank last year’s Houdini act for the fact that everyone is dismissing his impressive playoff performance thus far.
Boozer is the new Deng and he’s cleaning up the slack that Keith Bogans got last year and is packing on the criticism that he received. Everyone has needed someone to blame al year long and Boozer is the scapegoat. He’s overpaid, he doesn’t perform up to expectations and he needs to be amnestied.
These are all things we’ve heard about Carlos Boozer even through Game 5.
But Boozer has been packing the box score since the Bulls Game 2 wallow int heir own self pity game. Since Game 2, Boozer is averaging 20 ppg and 12 rpg in the last three games. Boozer has a double-double in points and rebounds in Games three, four and five and matched a career best in assists in Game 5 with six.
“One thing about Carlos: He doesn’t let that stuff bother him. He shrugs it off,” Taj Gibson said. “That’s what I admire about him. It falls off his shoulder and he gets ready for the next game. And he’s the same every game. He’s solid. He never worries about the negative. He’s always consistent.”
Deng is just now coming into his own with a 24 point, 8 rebound performance in Game 5 and that’s what you need to look at. Who cares what Deng did in Game 3, if he continues to perform the way we know Deng can perform then winning now makes losing back a minuscule issue.
If the Bulls want to win, Deng and Boozer need to show up. In the games that Chicago lost, Boozer was stepping up but Deng’s point and rebound totals were laughable for someone of his stature. However, when Deng and Boozer stepped up at the same time, then the Bulls had as close to a rhythm that they’ll have without Rose in the lineup.
Game 6 is a different beast all together. It’s in Philly, the Sixers are in front of a friendly crowd that is looking for Bulls blood. If Boozer, Deng or both take the night off statistically then Sixer’s fans might get what they want.