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Boozer aims for Thursday return

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Forward Carlos Boozer sat out a second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle, but he was much improved Saturday and hinted that he’s hoping to be back Thursday.

‘‘It’s much better,’’ said Boozer, who worked out on a bicycle and was walking around with only a slight limp. ‘‘It’s still not 100 percent; I’m walking slow. But we’re rehabbing it all day long.’’

Boozer declined to say when he expects to be back but said, ‘‘I have something circled on my calendar.’’

Considering that he missed three games in January with a similar injury, another three-game absence would mean a Thursday return at New Jersey.

‘‘That’s a good guess,’’ he said.

Carrying on

Even with Boozer out, the Bulls believe they can keep rolling, Luol Deng said.

‘‘Carlos is a big key to our team,’’ Deng said, ‘‘but we have guys who are ready to step up, guys who can play. That’s what makes us a great team. I hate to see Carlos go down because we’re so much better when he’s healthy. But we’re still good enough to win games with other guys stepping up.’’

The record backs up that sentiment. The Bulls are 13-7 in the games Boozer has missed, and that includes their annual circus trip in November.

The Bulls also posted a 22-8 mark when center Joakim Noah was sidelined. It’s no wonder there’s a growing belief that a full-strength Bulls squad could be a tough out this spring.

Rose in bloom

Even Derrick Rose’s teammates are dazzled at times by his acrobatics.

That was the case with 21/2 minutes left Friday against the Hawks. With his back to the basket as he soared in the air, the MVP front-runner threw up a two-handed, over-the-head shot on a drive that rattled around before not dropping. As the crowd roared, Noah gave Rose, who was fouled on the play, a big smile and an adoring pat on the head.

‘‘That was nice,’’ Noah said. ‘‘He’s playing at a very high level. It’s great to see somebody who works so hard every day, who’s so humble, perform the way he’s been performing. I’m happy for him.

‘‘I love Derrick as a person. I consider him like a brother. I’m proud of him. He’s doing his thing out there on the court, and it’s really helping us win.’’

Bull horns

The Bulls set team records with 18 three-pointers, 13 in the first half and eight in the first quarter Saturday against the Jazz. The previous team records for three-point baskets were 15 in a game, 10 in a half and seven in a quarter, all set against the Heat on Dec. 30, 1994.

◆ The Bulls extended their home winning streak to 11 games, the most since the 1997-98 season.

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