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Bulls don’t have a reliable scorer when going gets tough

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Best of seven

Updated: April 23, 2014 11:00PM



Down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series against the Wizards, coach Tom Thibodeau is going to be defiant until the end.

And unless Thibodeau can find a fourth-quarter go-to player between now and Friday night, that end could be coming much sooner than expected.

A lot has been made of the fourth-quarter deficiencies on offense in Games 1 and 2, specifically why Thibodeau hasn’t looked elsewhere on his bench for scoring help.

The sad reality is that Thibodeau has no one else to go to.

His best player, Derrick Rose, is in street clothes, and this series has been a reminder of just how badly the Bulls need a shot creator.

Then there’s Carlos Boozer.

He played only 21 minutes Tuesday, shooting 2-for-6 from the field and scoring five points.

Boozer was pulled earlier than usual in the first quarter, then was in his usual towel-waving role in the fourth quarter and overtime. That’s $33 million in salary (Rose and Boozer) sitting on the bench in crunch time.

“The group that’s in there, Taj [Gibson] is playing well,’’ Thibodeau said when asked about Boozer’s minutes. “Whenever you say, put someone else in, you’re taking someone else out. Who are you taking out? Joakim [Noah]? Who are you taking out? Taj? Everyone has a job to do. Just do your job.’’

When asked if Boozer was doing his job, Thibodeau gave the politically correct response.

“He’s doing what we’re asking him to do,’’ Thibodeau said. “We started the game off slowly. We can’t start a game off slowly. We have to start a game off quickly. It’s a 48-minute game. I know you guys sit there and say, ‘Who didn’t play? Throw that guy in there.’ We’ve got a certain way here.’’

That “way’’ led to 48 wins in the regular season. It was a nice little feel-good story. But as the Wizards have shown, feel-good stories all come to an end.

Thibodeau is basically playing a seven-man rotation and only seems to have faith in six — Noah, Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, D.J. Augustin, Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy.

“I really don’t know,’’ Gibson said when asked if something was amiss with Boozer. “In the playoffs, things just happen. You’ve just got to be sharp. You’ve got to sharpen up your game because teams, they’re on it.

“I don’t really know what to say on that one. [Boozer’s] been doing a great job. He’s been talking on defense, talking on the sidelines, doing what he has to do to help the team win.’’

But if fans are expecting Thibodeau to make a drastic change in his lineup or rotation, they shouldn’t hold their breath.

“When you start thinking like that, you start questioning yourself, you start questioning your jumpers, you’re questioning your rebounding, you’re questioning your whole team mentality,’’ Gibson said when asked if the players have started thinking that they might not have enough talent to compete with the Wizards. “Everything like that is behind us. You’ve got to rock with what you’ve got.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops



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