Charged-up Joakim Noah delivers triple-double in win over 76ers
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com February 28, 2013 9:46PM
Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball in the second quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Philadelphia 76ers NBA game Thursday February 28, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: March 1, 2013 12:26AM
Center Joakim Noah hates Philadelphia.
OK, maybe hate is a strong word.
Then again, maybe not.
Noah went down with a season-ending ankle injury in the playoffs last season in Philadelphia and had to endure 76ers fans’ abuse.
His response has been to beat the 76ers no matter where the game is played, and Noah had his third career triple-double (23 points, 21 rebounds, 11 blocked shots) in the Bulls’ 93-82 victory Thursday at the United Center.
After consecutive losses, the Bulls (33-25) picked up a sorely needed victory to go 5-8 in February.
Coach Tom Thibodeau spent the 24 hours leading up to the game preaching energy and intensity, and Noah provided it.
“You want to have a certain standard that you can maintain every day, so we have to put the work into it, and when we put the work into it, we give ourselves a good chance, so you’re trying to build the right habits,’’ Thibodeau said when asked about what had been missing the last month. “We can’t allow frustration to creep in. This is the grind of an NBA season. You have to work your way out of things, and that’s the challenge right now.’’
The challenge was met without Taj Gibson, still sidelined with a sprained left MCL, and Richard Hamilton, who was a late scratch with back spasms.
And, of course, there’s still no Derrick Rose.
Coach Doug Collins of the 76ers thought the Bulls’ recent struggles were simply the result of not having Rose in the lineup this late in the season.
“The NBA is not about running plays, the NBA is about making plays, and that’s what great players do,’’ Collins said. “And they make everybody on the floor better.
“When the game is on the line, you know [Rose is] going to attack the rim. So you lose your finisher, and that takes its toll. All of a sudden, the guy who is second in line has to step up and try to take that on, and it’s a whole different type of responsibility.’’
At least on Thursday, Noah took on that responsibility. His 11 blocks tied the franchise record in regulation, and the 76ers (22-34) had no answer for him.
Thibodeau hopes Noah’s performance is a wake-up call for a team that has bigger plans beyond the regular season.
“Sometimes you face a team that has desperation, and that’s the way we should be playing right now,’’ Thibodeau said. “We’re playing for something that is important, so we’ve got to put the work back into it.’’