Tom Thibodeau, Carlos Boozer

Carlos Boozer not pleased with his frequent fourth-quarter benchings

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Starting lineups get the most attention, and Carlos Boozer has started for the Bulls since signing with them in 2010.

But closing lineups might be more important, and Boozer isn’t part of Chicago’s.

He’s played just 117 fourth-quarter minutes all season – ninth on the team. In fact, he’s nearly as close to 12th-place Derrick Rose (57 fourth-quarter minutes) as he is eighth-place Luol Deng (172), even though neither of those two are playing for the Bulls anymore this season.

Unsurprisingly, Boozer thinks Tom Thibodeau should give him more playing time in fourth quarters.

Boozer, via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Nah, I think I should be out there, but it’s his choice, he makes the decisions out there, so I play, I don’t coach. He coaches. So he decides that,’’ Boozer said. “But honestly, he’s been doing that a lot since I’ve been here, not putting me in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we win, more times than not we don’t, but that’s his choice.’’

Asked how tough it’s been for him, especially considering Boozer could be an amnesty candidate after this season, Boozer replied, “Super tough, it’s very frustrating, especially when I’ve got a great game going or what have you. Obviously as a competitor you want to be out there to help your team win and especially when the game is close, you can do things that can help your team win. And not being out there, all you could do is really cheer them on, but that’s [Thibodeau’s] choice.’’

“He knows that. He’s aware of that,’’ Boozer replied, when asked if Thibodeau knew he wanted more minutes. “I feel great, body feels great. I think I’m very productive in the limited minutes that I am getting, so I can do even more if I was out there more, but as long as we’re winning that’s the main thing, but yeah, I do want to be out there in the fourth quarter, let’s make that clear.’’

A quick fact check: Chicago is 8-10 when Boozer is healthy and sits out the quarter and 12-13 when he plays the fourth. So, yes, Boozer is correct that the Bulls usually lose when sits out the fourth quarter. But they usually lose when he plays the fourth, too.

That probably doesn’t even show the full disparity. Quite likely, Thibodeau – whose baseline strategy is to bench Boozer for the final period – plays Boozer in the fourth only when the matchup is advantageous. So, while the Bulls are 5-4 when Boozer plays at least six minutes in the fourth quarter, their opponents in those games have a combined winning percentage of .329 (slightly better than the Celtics this season).

Thibodeau is a defensive-minded coach, and it makes sense his default fourth-quarter lineup includes Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson rather than Boozer. We could debate whether Gibson or Boozer is the better player, but there’s no question Gibson is the better defender.

Besides, you know who else wants to play a lot in the fourth quarter? Gibson and Noah. If the Bulls sat either of them for Boozer, they’d just be swapping which player is unhappy.

And make no mistake, Boozer is unhappy. But read his comments a little more closely.

This is exactly how a player who dislikes his role should handle it. He talked to his coach about the issue. He didn’t lie to the media about it. He’s not threatening any repercussions if he doesn’t get his way.

We want honesty from athletes, right? Boozer gave us honesty. He’s a competitor who believes in himself, and he wants more minutes. We can’t seek that honesty and then criticize the the player when he provides, as I’m sure many will do to Boozer.

As far as I’m concerned, Boozer is still a heck of a team player. He’s going to play hard when he gets on the court, and he’s going to cheer for his teammates when he’s off it. It doesn’t mean he has to like how often he does each.

Heat players past, present throw support behind David Fizdale heading to Memphis

David Fizdale
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The Memphis Grizzlies have found their man — Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale has been offered the head coaching job in Memphis. He’s a smart coach who earned the trust of elite players and was a key part of the staff that helped Miami to a couple of rings.

It’s a good hire. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what a couple Heat players from that era had to say.

Mario Chalmers had a first-hand view — he was traded from Miami to Memphis in the middle of last season. The point guard who went the other way in that deal, Beno Udrih, also helped push the deal along.

Fizdale is going to be a popular hire with the players. That said, if the Grizzlies can’t keep Mike Conley in free agency the team is going to have struggles this season, regardless of who coaches them.

Watch Kevin Love drop 25 points on Toronto

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Before Game 5, Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue told Kevin Love just to stay aggressive. Channing Frye told him the same thing.

Love took that advice to heart. From the opening tip of Game 5, Love was attacking — backing down the overmatched Luis Scola and knocking down threes. Love had 12 points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 25, helping spark an easy, 38-point Cavaliers win in Game 5.

Now, can Love do this on the road in Game 6?

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.