Carlos Boozer’s composure the key to Bulls forcing overtime

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Bulls forward Luol Deng makes a baseline drive to the basket in the second quarter as the Chicago Bulls host the Miami Heat Thursday April 12, 2012 at the United Center. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times photo

There may not be a more vocal player on the Bulls than Carlos Boozer, but his teammates were fortunate he was listening Thursday night in their 96-86 overtime win over the Miami Heat.

In the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, with the Bulls trailing by three points, Boozer found himself with the ball at the free-throw line after a play drawn up for Kyle Korver had broken down.

With about three seconds on the clock, instead of panicking and shooting, Boozer looked up and found C.J. Watson, who hit the three-pointer that sent the game into overtime.

‘‘We needed a three,” Boozer said. ‘‘I’m a smart player. I know what to do. C.J. called my name out, so I heard him. I just had to get it on target to him, and he did a great pump fake, got him in the air, step back. Great play by C.J.”

For Boozer, it was the highlight in a milestone game for the maligned power forward.

Throughout the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat last year, Boozer fought injuries that prevented him from being a major contributor.

His struggles continued against the Heat this season when he combined to score 12 points in the teams’ first two meetings.

But Thursday, his 13 first-half points helped carry the Bulls on a night when they struggled to score. He finished with a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds.

‘‘Carlos is playing well,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘You need his scoring, you need his rebounding, and he’s doing that very consistently for us. He’s had an excellent year. He hasn’t missed a game or a practice.”

Boozer may leave something to be desired on the defensive end, but his defensive rebound will be vital in the playoffs – particularly against a Heat team that plays so physically around the rim.

‘‘They’re a team that helps so much in the paint,” Boozer said. ‘‘We watched a lot of tape of what to do, and I thought we shared the ball really well, we shot the three really well and made the extra pass.”

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