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Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer join the late show

Joakim Noah defending KevGarnett Friday will remastarting lineup with Carlos Boozer. | Elsa~Getty images

Joakim Noah, defending Kevin Garnett on Friday, will remain in the starting lineup with Carlos Boozer. | Elsa~Getty images

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Updated: February 15, 2012 8:12AM



BOSTON — After sitting out the fourth quarters of the last two games, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah made key contributions late to help the Bulls hold off the Boston Celtics on Friday.

Noah had four points, three rebounds and two blocked shots in the fourth quarter to finish with 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, while Boozer contributed two rebounds in the fourth and finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

‘‘I love the way Jo was active tonight blocking shots and going after the ball,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘Then his offense came around. When he plays like that, it’s good for us.’’

Before the game, Thibodeau said he’s not considering changing his starting lineup despite Taj Gibson and Omer Asik playing critical moments against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards.

‘‘I feel like I can still do better, but I’m not going to lie: It felt pretty good to be out there competing,’’ Noah said.

While Boozer’s and Noah’s production may be down, Thibodeau said having options on the bench is a luxury during this, of all seasons.

‘‘It’s one of our strengths: quality bigs up front, and where we are in our schedule right now, it’s hard to play big guys extended minutes,’’ he said. ‘‘The fact that we have great depth allows us to rotate all four of those guys. They’ve all done a good job for us.’’

Behind the curtain

Considering John Lucas III had such a big game in place of Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson scored a game-high 33 when he replaced Rose in the starting lineup last season, Thibodeau jokingly was asked if he is the real reason behind the success of his point guards.

Thibodeau chuckled at the idea of Rose being a ‘‘system’’ player.

“C.J. is terrific and probably more deserving of more minutes,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got a tough job because he’s backing up Derrick. But he handles it great, and whenever C.J. has had extended minutes, he has played very, very well for us.

“John handles his role perfectly. He’s a high-energy guy who works hard every day and is always prepared. In many ways, he’s similar to [Brian Scalabrine]. He could be practicing for two months and not play at all, and you could throw him in and he knows exactly what he has to do.”

Injury update

Rip Hamilton (groin) is on the mend but hasn’t started running yet. He hopes to return sometime next week. Watson (elbow) could return Saturday against the Toronto Raptors or Monday in Memphis.

‘‘C.J. is very, very close,” Thibodeau said. “Rip did more shooting today and is close, but C.J. is closer.’’



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