Noah makes big play down stretch in Bulls’ 85-82 comeback win
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org January 23, 2013 9:47PM
Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, center, is fouled as he drives the lane between Detroit Pistons guard Will Bynum (12) and center Andre Drummond during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: January 23, 2013 10:44PM
There was no single-game performance of historic proportions for Joakim Noah.
No Ben Wallace sitting courtside to act like Tony Robbins and motivate the Bulls center.
So in that way, Detroit head coach Lawrence Frank accomplished goal No. 1: Stop Noah.
Not that Noah was by any means bad in the 85-82 comeback win over the Pistons on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t even close to his last meeting in Detroit, when he scored a career-high 30 points and pulled down 23 rebounds, with Wallace sitting courtside cheering on both teams he once played for.
“Oh, he’s been unbelievable,’’ Frank said of Noah. “I mean his numbers haven’t been All-Star worthy, but Hall of Fame worthy. I mean 30 and 23? Then I read his comment after on how he saw Ben Wallace in the building and that motivated him? [Explative], Ben, get out of the building. Put on a uniform or watch on TV if you’re going to motivate guys to do that.
“Last year, I think he put together a [20-point, 17 rebound] game [in Detroit]. Look, Noah is a helluva player because he plays with so much effort. He’s got an unbelievable motor, and if you’re not going to hit him first and keep on hitting him, he’ll wear you down.’’
Noah did just that, but Frank could have said that about a number of Bulls players when the smoke cleared. Then again, it takes a group effort to overcome a 17-point third quarter deficit, as the Pistons were up 55-38 with 10:23 left in the third quarter.
That noise they started to hear about then was the bottom dropping out from underneath them.
Led by nine points from Richard Hamilton in the third, the Bulls cut the deficit to 11, trailing 68-57. Going with Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and of course Noah throughout most of the fourth, the Bulls outscored Detroit 22-7 in the first 11 minutes of the final stanza, with a Noah dunk at the 7:52 mark finally tying the game back up.
Detroit took a one-point lead near the two-minute mark, but Butler answered with a huge three-pointer from the corner to make it an 82-80 Bulls lead.
Detroit punched back, with Jason Maxiell scoring inside with 29.4 seconds left to tie the game up once again, leaving the Bulls in an all-too familiar position of playing late-game heroics. Noah took the honors.
After a Belinelli miss, Noah made an unbelievable save, diving into the crowd and flinging the basketball back in play to a streaking Belinelli. Not only did the guard score the basket, but drew the foul to give the Bulls the three-point lead with 7.5 seconds left.
“I scored the ball, but Jo did everything for us on that play,’’ Belinelli said. “That was a big win for us.’’
And a bigger loss for a Pistons team that has now lost 17-straight to the Bulls.
As for Noah, he finished with just 10 points, but had 18 rebounds and the hustle play of the game, as Rodney Stuckey’s shot at the horn fell short for Detroit.
“We’ve said this numerous times: He gets those points without his number ever being called,’’ Frank added of Noah. “I’ve got a lot of respect for his game.’’