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By Homer D. Sayson

Turf toe slows down Boozer
Sun, 01 May 2011

Eastern Conference Semifinals

An MRI has confirmed a previous diagnosis that the injury sustained early this week by Carlos Boozer is indeed turf toe, an ailment defined by Wikipedia as "a surface level condition characterized by a painful, red, swollen great toe caused by inflammation of the tendons on both the dorsal and plantar surfaces."

The aching toe has forced the 6-foot-9 starter to miss team practices. But Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is confident that Boozer will be healthy enough in time for the Eastern Conference Semifinals, which opens with Game 1 this Monday night at the United Center.

"He's day-to-day, but I'm thinking he will be able to go," Thibodeau told Chicago reporters last Friday.

But that bit of pleasant medical update isn't necessarily good news for the No.1-seeded Bulls.

With an aching toe, Boozer can't be an effective power forward. He would only be a forward without power. The discomfort will limit his production on offense while the pain figures to curtail his movements and expose further his liabilities on defense.

Before he got hurt, the 266-pound Duke University alum was already going through a serious postseason funk. Like the economy, his scoring average is down to 10 points a game, a steep drop from the 17.2 points that he normed in 59 regular season games.

And like the jobs in the employment market, Boozer's confidence is hard to find.
Thanks in large to a string of early foul troubles that he ran into against the Pacers. Boozer was particularly awful in Game 5 of that series, where he managed only two points and five rebounds in 15 uneventful minutes of play.

Now, the good news. Even without Boozer at 100 percent, Chicago remains heavily favored against Atlanta in their best-of-7 Round 2 match-up.

The Bulls defeated the Hawks twice in the regular season, including a 114-81 pummeling last March 22 at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, where the Bulls led by as many as 47 points. Yeah, that's not a misprint, it's really 47.

MAN DOWN. Another edge for the Bulls is the tragic news that former ally turned Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich may be out for the series after suffering a severe hamstring injury in his team's Game 6 clincher over Orlando.

Hinrich, the 30-year old former Bulls captain is widely recognized as Atlanta's best perimeter defender. Hinrich averaged only 10.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, but his poise and leadership is an invaluable asset to a young and upcomong team such as the Hawks.

But don't bet the house on Chicago just yet.

The Hawks are a confident bunch, riding on the crest of a solid outing against Dwight Howard and the now-vanquished Orland Magic. The Hawks possess a very potent offense led by Joe Johnson, who is averging 18 points a game in these playoffs.

Atlanta also has 6-foot-10 center forward Al Horford and streak shooters Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford, another ex-Bull. Zaza Pachula plays center-forward and part-time enforcer

In the final analysis, this series smells like a Rose, as in Bulls spitfire Derrick Rose. In Chicago's two triumphs over Atlanta in the regular season, Rose finished with a combined total of 64 points and 15 rebounds.

If the Hawks couldn't stop Rose in March and April, I don't see how they're gonna stop him in May. (HDS)

Top photo: Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls tries to hand the ball off to teammate Ronnie Brewer #11 as teammates Kwame Brown #54 and Stephen Jackson #1 of the Charlotte Bobcats try to stop them during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 12, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Getty Images.

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