Chicago Bulls starters Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton have often found themselves sitting on the bench in crunch-time this season due to poor play. That changed on Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks, when Tom Thibodeau rewarded the two players' strong starts with a spot in the Bulls' fourth-quarter lineup.
Boozer and Hamilton both finished with 22 points, while Boozer's 19 rebounds far and away led the team. The power forward made some key plays down the stretch, including a put-back slam that iced the game for Chicago.
With Derrick Rose out of the lineup, the Bulls need Boozer and Hamilton to play well and provide offense down the stretch in close games. The lineup decisions are ultimately up to Thibodeau, but Boozer knows playing hard early will give him a better chance to stay on the court late (via ESPN Chicago):
"I think you never know how long you're going to be out there," Boozer said. "You don't know if you're going to go back out there in the fourth quarter. Me and Rip talked about it before the game, just be aggressive while you're out, see what happens. That's kind of our mentality the last few games. It was going great tonight.
"It was great (being out there.) We want to be out there every fourth quarter. That's Thibs' decision. ... This is his show. He runs it. He puts who he wants out there, and we just go with the flow."
Thibodeau was very pleased with both players' performance on Saturday and made sure to note how hard they played. If Boozer and Hamilton continue to play with that kind of intensity, they will likely find themselves on the court more often in the fourth quarter.