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Bulls hold off Knicks; Noah, Chandler have at it

Joakim Noah TysChandler come together fourth quarter. Both were ejected. | Bruce Bennett~Getty Images

Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler come together in the fourth quarter. Both were ejected. | Bruce Bennett~Getty Images

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Updated: January 23, 2013 6:14AM

NEW YORK — Joakim Noah said last week in Philadelphia that he loves playing the bad guy.

It figures that his best performance in that role this season came Off Broadway. Way Off Broadway.

In a game more suited for New York’s Rucker Park than Madison Square Garden, the Bulls beat the Knicks 110-106. But the final score was just the subplot for a game with four ejections, nine technical fouls and a tussle between Noah and Knicks big man Tyson Chandler. Each tried to love-tap the other with a head-butt before they were separated.

Director/Knicks super fan Spike Lee tried to do his part, staring down the officials throughout the second half.

“Yeah, things were definitely escalating,’’ Noah said of the incident with Chandler. “I don’t think they’re used to being down that much, too. If they were up 20 points, I don’t think they would have been that frustrated. We’ll be playing this team a lot. I’m just happy we won.’’

But at what expense?

Noah was asked about a possible suspension and shot it down.

“Suspension? For what? What did I do? He head-butted me,’’ Noah said. “C’mon guys. I’m trying to play [tonight against the Atlanta Hawks], man. I love this game. Things happen, you know. Things happen.’’

The league office surely will review the video. Earlier, Jason Kidd had a hard foul on Luol Deng.

“Some would say [it was a] strip, others would say something else,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

As for the nine technical fouls — with the Knicks collecting six of them — Thibodeau put that on his shoulders, considering he picked up one to start the fourth quarter.

“Well, he gave it to me, so apparently I did,’’ Thibodeau said when asked if he deserved it. “I thought we had a lot of things going against us. I tried to make a point.’’

What the Bulls (15-10) had going against a Knicks team that has been the best in the Eastern Conference was a huge lead after three quarters. But they allowed 45 points in the fourth, turning a laugher into danger.

Considering Deng had a season-high 29 points with 13 rebounds and Kirk Hinrich had one of his better games with 16 points and eight assists, coughing this one up would have been a heartbreaker.

“We gave up 45 points, and that’s not good,’’ Thibodeau said.” That’s not how we want to close a game.”

As far as the collateral damage, Deng suffered a shoulder injury when Kidd fouled him. He came out for a bit before returning, but he’s a question mark for the game against the Hawks.

So with all the drama and intensity, it had to be a statement game, right?

“It doesn’t say anything,’’ Noah said, all smiles. “It just says Bulls ‘W,’ Knickerbockers ‘L.’ That’s it.’’

And that the bad guy got the last laugh.

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