Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Carlos Boozer, who has struggled in Utah's second-round playoff series, answers questions from the media Thursday morning prior to the start of Jazz practice.

Some players avoid saying this particular word — kind of like how they'd shy away from dropping a four-letter bomb in front of their mom or preacher.

But Carlos Boozer used the dreaded noun to describe what he's going through in these playoffs. Even at the risk of having to add a quarter to the "Naughty Word Jar," Boozer admitted Thursday that he is indeed experiencing a mind-boggling (close your ears!) "slump."

He's bothered by it, badly wants to work out of it, says his team is suffering and struggling in part because of it, and knows it couldn't have come at a worse time.

"I am in a shooting slump," he said. "I am frustrated."

The Jazz's slumping power forward couldn't even go to sleep after Wednesday night's 120-110 Game 2 loss — which put Utah in an 0-2 hole against the Los Angeles Lakers in this Western Conference semifinal series — until about 6 a.m. Thursday. Even then, it was a short snooze. He had to be at a shootaround and film session only a few hours later to get ready for tonight's Game 3 (7 p.m. tipoff) at EnergySolutions Arena.

After flying back to Utah from L.A. following the game, Boozer tossed, watched the game, turned, counted referees' whistles and fouls, tossed while thinking about missed jump shots and turned some more while worrying about letting his teammates down.

He's been playing his nightmare of late "back and forth in my head" to try to figure things out.

Against the Lakers, Boozer has hardly looked like the best power forward on the Jazz, let alone the clutch player who earned a spot on the All-NBA third team with his dominating inside presence and mid-range game.

Matched against the quick and lengthy likes of 6-10 Lamar Odom and 7-foot Pau Gasol, the 6-foot-9 Boozer has put up consecutive sub-par performances — and that was coming off a first-round series in which he didn't exactly light it up. Against the Lakers, Boozer has only averaged 12.5 points thanks to a miserable 37.5-percent shooting clip. In eight playoff games, he is scoring just 15.1 points on 41.7 percent shooting.

That production is way down from his regular-season contributions of 21.1 points per game on 54.7 percent field-goal accuracy.

For a player at Boozer's talent level, yep, that puts him in bona fide slump territory, especially when considering he had seven turnovers in Game 1 and zero points in the first half of Game 2.

"For me, I'm a 20-10 guy all night long, and not to be getting those numbers bothers me," he said Thursday morning at the Zions Bank Basketball Center.

Even more bothersome than not getting his usual double-double — he's only grabbing 9.5 rebounds a game against L.A. as well — is the fact his team has fallen twice to the Lakers while his shots have fallen anywhere between Santa Monica Boulevard and Manhattan Beach but not often in the basket.

The pair of double-digit losses, Boozer said, "bothers me more than anything else."

Hearing the refs call his number so often is another big bother. Because of his foul woes, Boozer played less than seven minutes in the first quarter, just one series in the second quarter and 24:25 for the entire game. When he actually played, Boozer had more fouls (four) than baskets (three) in Game 2, and he fouled out of Game 1. Boozer said he tended to rush shots and was out of rhythm.

That, he knows, has to change if the Jazz hope to make a series out of this.

"I've got to stop getting in foul trouble, move my feet a little bit better, not let my teammates down by getting into foul trouble (and) not getting an opportunity to be on the court and help us win," Boozer said. "It's tough. I've been playing this way all year, but I've got to be able to adjust right now to the way the refs are calling the game."

Jerry Sloan doesn't want his All-NBA forward — Deron Williams also made second team, the NBA announced Thursday — to stop being aggressive. The Jazz coach just wants his Duke University product to start playing smarter.

"That's something he's got to overcome ... I think he's made too many silly fouls," Sloan said. "Silly fouls get you on the bench and then when you have to make the hard one, now you're in trouble. You've got to be careful of how you play and stay focused on doing the right thing."

Though Paul Millsap came in and gave the Jazz the spark Boozer didn't, the two-time All-Star said he doesn't want to watch from the sidelines. He still wants to be more aggressive on offense, but he might tone down his pursuit of offensive rebounds to avoid fouling so much.

"If I can stay out of foul trouble, I think I'll be all right. That's the biggest key for me this series," he said. "It's terrible to be on the bench, especially in the first half when you're trying to set a tone for the game, a tone for your teammates and a tone for the series, and you're not able to be out there and help them out. It's very frustrating."

Boozer said he and his team still trust in his talent. Being back home might help, too.

"I'm always going to be confident and believe in my abilities and my teammates' abilities ..." he said. "My teammates are telling me, 'You've got to keep being aggressive, it's going to fall."'

Sloan said he wants other players to step up and pick up the slack for slumping players because the Jazz need to win as a team. But he also believes Boozer, who hasn't scored 20 points since Game 1 against Houston, will soon snap out of his funk.

"He's very, very important to our team, everybody knows that. That hasn't changed," Sloan said. "But he'll work himself out of it. I have confidence he will work himself out. He always has."

Boozer isn't about to play his "injury card" because of his sore back to explain his postseason shooting struggles, either.

"I'm not going to blame it on my back," he said. "I had a helluva season with my back. I'm not worried about that."

Not having to repeat the 's' word again ranks much higher on his list of concerns.

Game-by-game production

vs. Lakers

Date ... Result ... Shooting ... Points

May 7: ... L ... 120-110 ... 3-10 ... 10

May 4: ... L ... 109-98 ... 6-14 ... 15

vs. Rockets

Date ... Result ... Shooting ... Points

May 2: ... W ... 113-91 ... 6-17 ... 15

April 29: ... L ... 95-69 ... 8-18 ... 19

April 26: ... W ... 86-82 ... 3-13 ... 14

April 24: ... L ... 94-92 ... 6-11 ... 15

April 21: ... W ... 90-84 ... 6-12 ... 13

April 19: ... W ... 93-82 ... 10-20 ... 20

Slumping Boozer

Hot — regular season

81 games: 21.1 ppg

FG: 54.7 percent

FT: 73.8 percent

Rebounds: 10.4

Assists: 2.9

Not-so hot — playoffs

8 games: 15.1 ppg

FG: 41.7 percent

FT: 73.5 percent

Rebounds: 11.1

Assists: 3.0

Oh-so cold — Lakers series

2 games: 12.5 ppg

FG: 37.5 percent

FT: 87.5 percent

Rebounds: 9.5

Assists: 4.0


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