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Bulls’ Carlos Boozer, C.J. Watson too hot for Suns

Carlos Boozer scores two his 26 first-half points over MarcGortfirst quarter. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Carlos Boozer scores two of his 26 first-half points over Marcin Gortat in the first quarter. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 19, 2012 8:26AM



The Bulls can overcome the loss of Derrick Rose a lot more easily when Carlos Boozer and C.J. Watson shoot like they did against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

But even after Boozer scored 31 points on 14-for-21 shooting and Watson added 23 on 8-for-12 shooting in a 118-97 victory at the United Center, the Bulls know their fate hinges more on the healing powers of their irrepressible MVP than the hot-and-cold shooting touch of any member of his supporting cast.

Rose missed his second consecutive game and third in the last five with a sprained big toe on his left foot that appears to need rest in a season that won’t provide much. The Bulls (13-3) played their 16th game in the first 24 days of the season. And even when the frenetic pace eases up, it still will tax the health of Rose and everybody else.

‘‘He’s usually a pretty quick healer,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said when asked if the typically nagging ‘‘turf toe’’ that ails Rose will take awhile to heal. ‘‘He’ll get his treatment, and then we have a couple of days off [before playing at Cleveland on Friday]. We’ll see where he is after that. He usually responds pretty well to treatment.’’

With Boozer and Watson red-hot in the first half and Rip Hamilton starting for the first time in nine games, the Bulls at least responded to the challenge of playing without Rose much better than they did in a 16-point loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis on Monday.

‘‘C.J. played great,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘We all did a great job of stepping up in [Rose’s] absence. But we definitely would rather have Derrick in the lineup.’’

The Bulls also got a lift from Joakim Noah, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds in a spirited effort, and Hamilton, whose all-around game masked any signs of rust. He had 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting and six assists.

‘‘We had a lot of guys play well,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Joakim was great. He was very active. He hustled. He knocked down shots. Carlos was on fire to start. Rip was terrific, not so much with shooting but with his playmaking. I loved the way the ball hopped. We made the extra pass, and when you do that, good things happen.’’

Boozer scored 26 points on 12-for-15 shooting in the first half, and Watson added 15 on 5-for-5 shooting as the Bulls shot 67 percent to take a 67-47 lead against the struggling Suns (4-9), who have lost five in a row.

‘‘I just played off my teammates,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘I was aggressive. I got open shots and just took ’em.’’

The only disappointment for the home crowd was Brian Scalabrine turning down an open three-pointer late in the game. And even that turned into gold — Scalabrine faked the shot and fed center Omer Asik for a dunk and three-point play that gave the Bulls a 112-86 lead.

It was that kind of night.

‘‘I think we’re a pretty confident team [even without Rose],’’ Noah said. ‘‘We were a little bit embarrassed by the way we competed against Memphis. But we feel we definitely can do better. And we came with a lot better energy tonight. But the games keep on coming, so we’re just going to keep fighting.’’



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