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Joakim Noah leads Bulls past Kings

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Updated: April 17, 2014 6:49AM



They’re not going to go away. If anything, the chants of ‘‘MVP’’ are only getting louder at the United Center the last few weeks.

And Joakim Noah’s play is doing nothing to silence them.

Thanks to another outstanding performance Saturday by the two-time All-Star center, the Bulls outlasted a Sacramento Kings team that had given them headaches the last few seasons, beating them 94-87.

Noah again showed his versatility, scoring 23 points to go with 11 rebounds, eight assists, five blocked shots and a team-high three steals.

No word on whether he washed the uniforms and drove all of his teammates home.

‘‘I don’t like them — I don’t like it,’’ Noah said of the chants after the latest win. ‘‘That’s not what’s important to me. It’s just all about this team right now, and I think we’ve been through so much. It’s not about individual accolades. It’s about us and everything we’ve gone through. That’s what this season is about for me.’’

Understood. But the fact Noah has helped save the season for the Bulls (37-29) cannot be ignored.

‘‘I think it’s great for them, for any player, especially where we come from — Brooklyn and New York — all the ups and downs Joakim has gone through in his career, and now he’s on this stage, now he’s getting MVP chants. It’s great,’’ forward Taj Gibson said. ‘‘That shows the amount of work he’s put in, the amount of heart he has, and it’s great for him.’’

The Kings made things interesting. After DeMarcus Cousins hit a jumper to bring the Kings (23-43) to within three with 1:01 left, Noah hit Gibson on the baseline for a jumper to make it 90-85 Bulls.

Isaiah Thomas hit a jumper, then inexplicably fouled Kirk Hinrich with 27.5 seconds left. After Hinrich split the free throws, the Bulls were up by four.

Ben McLemore missed a three-pointer, and after Jimmy Butler grabbed the rebound, he was fouled and sent to the free-throw line. Like Hinrich, he split the pair.

Thomas missed on the other end, and Mike Dunleavy put the game on ice with two more free throws.

Gibson finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, including five huge offensive rebounds, but for the second consecutive game it was Noah going head-to-head with a bigger, more physical center in Cousins and outplaying him.

‘‘The first thing is, his game is through the roof right now,’’ Gibson said of Noah. “And one thing is it’s all about confidence. When you work on your game, you get that confidence going, you’re unstoppable. I feel like he’s taken it to the next level, head-up, being a leader, doing all kinds of things in all kinds of fashions. He’s becoming a strong leader, physically and vocally, and it’s showing up on the court.’’

And being applauded by the fans.

‘‘All the individual awards, I know Jo doesn’t care about that,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘He cares about winning, and that’s what makes him so special. I mean, statistically, you can’t measure his true value to our team because all the things he does help us win, and that’s the most important statistic there is. And when you win, people get recognized, so he’s lifting a lot of people up.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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