When he faces his former team for the first time Wednesday night, Boozer will try to aid the Bulls’ attempts to play better defense and avoid a season-high third consecutive defeat.
Before signing with Chicago in July, Boozer played six seasons in Utah and was the Jazz’s leading scorer in 2009-10 as they claimed their third Northwest Division title. Current teammate Kyle Korver(notes) also made an NBA-record 53.6 percent of his 3-point attempts last season.
Under first-year coach Tom Thibodeau, the two players have been part of one of the NBA’s best defensive units for Chicago, allowing 92.5 points per game.
The Bulls, though, have struggled at that end of the court in the past two games. Before Friday night’s 101-90 loss to Golden State, the Central Division leaders hadn’t allowed more than 96 points in 13 consecutive games and were 11-2 over that stretch.
Chicago (34-16) followed with a 109-103 loss to Portland on Monday night, its third of five consecutive road games. The Bulls allowed the Trail Blazers to shoot 51.5 percent and post a 40-18 advantage in free-throw attempts.
“Every aspect of the defense was missing. This is two games in a row we’ve put ourselves in a bad position by not guarding,” Thibodeau said.
With the defensive-minded Thibodeau’s help, Chicago has held opponents under the century mark in 37 games and allowed more than 100 points in three consecutive games only once, from Dec. 1-4.
The Bulls, however, gave up an average of 118.5 points last season to the Jazz (31-22), but they might have an easier time in this matchup with Boozer and Korver on their roster. Utah has also struggled for consistency, having alternated wins and losses in its last seven games.
Among those losses are its first back-to-back home defeats. The Jazz haven’t dropped three consecutive home games since April 7-14, 2007, and enter this game with some momentum after rallying for a 107-104 win at Sacramento on Monday night.
Utah trailed by six with 6:17 remaining, but Paul Millsap(notes) scored six straight points to start a 16-7 run. Millsap finished with 18 points, while Al Jefferson(notes) had his fifth straight 20-point game with a team-best 23.
Williams averaged 24.5 points on 76.9 percent shooting (20 of 26) in last season’s sweep of the Bulls and also had 23 assists.
Chicago’s All-Star point guard Derrick Rose(notes), meanwhile, has averaged 23.3 points on 54.9 percent shooting in his four career games against the Jazz. Rose, averaging a career-best 24.6 points this season, scored 14 points against Golden State but bounced back with 36 versus Portland, three shy of matching his season high.
The Bulls haven’t dropped three straight since a season-high, 10-game slide from Feb. 27-March 19, 2010, but might have trouble avoiding that feat as they’ve lost 11 of 14 at EnergySolutions Arena.