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Joakim Noah’s heart lifts Bulls to ugly win over Nets

Apr 22, 2013, 11:49 PM EDT


Joakim Noah pushed Kris Humphries in the back, positioned himself between Humphries and C.J. Watson for a rebound and lunged out of bounds to save the ball as it took a sharp carom across the baseline. Noah’s heave was headed out of bounds on the sideline, but Kirk Hinrich jumped to save the ball, making a pinpoint pass to Nate Robinson. With 21 seconds on the shot clock, Robinson drilled a long 3-pointer like time was running out and he needed to save a possession.

Thanks to an incredible effort by the plantar-fasciitis-suffer Noah, the Bulls saved their playoff hopes with a 90-82 win over the Nets tonight.

Noah played 25:29 – just enough over his limit of 25 minutes to prove a point – and all 25 minutes and 29 seconds were essential to the Chicago’s win. It wasn’t just that Noah made positive plays, though he certainly did, but his teammates fed off his resolve. The Bulls cheered heartily from the bench and defended physically on the floor, lifting each other as they willed themselves to play just better than Brooklyn.

Then Noah took over.

In the final 7:39, Noah had nine points, six rebounds and a seizure-inducing blocked shot:

Plays like that helped Chicago hold the Nets to 35 percent shooting, and compared to the series’ first game, the big difference came in the paint:

Game 1: 28-of-38 (74 percent)

Game 2: 15-of-36 (42 percent)

The Bulls uglied the game, which worked to their advantage.

Kirk Hinrich orchestrated an offense that scored just 95.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. But he also hounded Deron Williams into 1-of-9 shooting.

Luol Deng forced shot after shot, scoring 15 points on 16 attempts. But highlighting the small forward matchup overwhelmed Gerald Wallace, who scored just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

Nazr Mohammed… well, there wasn’t much ugly about his game. He played big defense in the interior, and he shot 4-of-5, making two 15-footers and two 16-footers.

In Game 1, the Bulls were –13 in the 12 minutes neither Noah nor Taj Gibson played. Tonight, Chicago was +6 in its 12 minutes with Noah or Gibson – and that’s a credit to Mohammed.

Tom Thibodeau outcoached P.J. Carlesimo tonight – both by making tactical changes from Game 1 and by inspiring his players to give their all – and now it’s the Nets coach’s turn to make adjustments.

Here’s a thought: Don’t start both Wallace and Reggie Evans. They have value for their defense and rebounding, but though those two forwards mostly play with three plus offensive players – Williams, Brook Lopez (21 points) and Joe Johnson (17 points) – the Nets had an offensive rating of 47.6 (!) in the 17 minutes Wallace and Evans shared the court tonight.

In an muddy game, those Brooklyn possessions were perhaps the deepest in the muck, though there were certainly other contenders.

Noah made all three of his fourth-quarter shots, and after each one, he grimaced while laboring up the court. It looked like his legs could crumble beneath him at any moment.

But he kept pressing.

  1. eventhorizon04 - Apr 22, 2013 at 11:56 PM

    Great game.

    I became pessimistic about the Bulls after game 1 because of how limited Noah looked, and without Noah, the Bulls’ options for countering Lopez and deterring drives by Williams were limited.

    However, while Noah is still limited by the plantar fasciitis, he was able to make more of an impact this game. With the 1-2 days rest between games, if Noah can keep giving the Bulls 25 or so minutes per game, the Bulls have a good shot in this series.

    • gmsingh - Apr 24, 2013 at 7:38 AM

      Great game? I thought we were told it was an “ugly” game.

  2. andrewproughcfe - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    — Got to wonder how those teammates are feeling about #1 continuing to sit on the bench in street clothes, supposedly at nearly 100% physical health?

    Is it worth Noah ripping his foot to shreds if Rose has already given up on the entire season?

  3. asublimeday - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:45 AM

    Aww but I thought all was lost for the Bulls?!

    Told ya.

    • gmsingh - Apr 23, 2013 at 9:01 AM

      Yes, but now we have this gem:

      > It looked like his legs could crumble beneath him at any moment.

      So the Bulls near death experience has been replaced by Noah’s near death experience. In the next game everyone will be talking about Noah’s ability to play on bloody stumps instead of feet. Is it me, or has the league somehow become something where you play with the heart of a champion you are some kind of weirdo?

  4. asublimeday - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:47 AM

    – Got to wonder how those teammates are feeling about #1 continuing to sit on the bench in street clothes, supposedly at nearly 100% physical health?

    Is it worth Noah ripping his foot to shreds if Rose has already given up on the entire season?

    It doesn’t really get worse, just doesn’t get better and is painful. Can’t really hurt him next season.

    Rose will rise this season.

  5. asublimeday - Apr 23, 2013 at 12:51 AM

    The Bulls are dealing with razor-thin margins, and at a certain point they should give up and shut down Noah. For at least one more game, it appears they’re going to give Brooklyn their best shot.

    Looks like you can shove that doom and gloom right up your…

  6. halfbaht - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:51 AM


  7. 91devinhester23 - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:51 AM


  8. acdc363 - Apr 23, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    Noah is just one of those dudes you hate to play against but would LOVE to have on your team.

  9. jaydm84 - Apr 23, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    I was at UF when Noah was there and this guy was a beast. Pure intensity all the time, everyone else in the SEC hated him and I loved it. Glad to see him be so essential in the NBA when a lot of people doubted him.

  10. yuwannano - Apr 23, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Da Bulls!

  11. iowahbr - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Noah played way over his head and gave the Bulls a road victory when they shouldn’t have gotten one. He is a fulltime 110% all the time player and the Bulls are lucky to have him. Unfortunately the game didn’t show much that should cause Bulls fans to think beyond the first round next year when Rose returns. Still no consistent 2nd scorer to count to get his own shot off when Rose gets double teamed. Hope he can heal his foot.

    • itsthemelman82 - Apr 23, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Couple things wrong w/ that comment… Noah didn’t play over his head, even when hurt, he gives you hustle & heart. That was typical for Jo, if he’s healthy the Nets would really be in trouble. 2nd the Bulls won last night in typical Bulls fashion so they did deserve it. As for the 2nd scorer, how’s that working out for team like the Nets, Bucks,etc. 2 stars don’t equal wins, the Bulls have a TEAM

      • iowahbr - Apr 23, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        short memory comment. see 2 years ago play-off tapes and last year ‘s 2nd round tapes if you need some additional proof. Noah always give you hustle and heart but his shot from the key isn’t going to win any chanpionship games or allow Rose to work the middle because the shot by Noah is a threat in tight games and clears the lane. You need the Bulls great defense but that alone won’t get you a ring in today’s NBA.

      • gmsingh - Apr 24, 2013 at 7:40 AM

        Is b-ball really this complicated? You can’t play “over your head” and be a “fulltime 110% player” at the same time. You sound like a d-bag when you say that.

  12. chitownmatt - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    Noah did great but it was Hinrich’s D that won the game.

    All night, Deron Williams looked like he was ready to cry or throw a temper tan’T’rum. lol

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