Updated: March 9, 2014 10:12PM
The Miami Heat didn’t need All-Star appearances and triple-doubles by Joakim Noah to know that the Bulls center had reached elite status.
“He’s one of the best big men we have in our game, so it’s on the scouting report every game,’’ four-time MVP LeBron James said when asked if Noah’s evolution this season was drawing more attention. “You know what he’s capable of doing both offensively and defensively. His ability to set plays, offensive rebound, defensive rebound, and defensively you know how creative and how his energy level is. We’re always attuned to his game.’’
James would know.
He competed against Noah in the division, when James was with the Cavaliers, has faced him in the playoffs three times and was on the court with Noah last month when the Eastern Conference rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the West in the All-Star Game.
“They’re featuring him more as far as play-making in the high post, but he’s always had that skill set, so it’s not as if they haven’t done that before,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s really evolved, his game has improved. Elite players do that, so you have to adjust.’’
Noah didn’t disappoint in the victory Sunday, scoring 20 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking five shots.
Coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t much of a big-picture type, and it’s a good thing because if he thought back-to-back games against the Grizzlies and the Heat were a nasty combo to the body, the schedule isn’t about to get any easier.
San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City, a home-and-home with Indiana, then Portland make up six of the Bulls’ next nine games.
“I like where we are,’’ Thibodeau said. “It brings out the best in you. Anytime you start looking at a grouping of games, you’re not thinking about what’s really important and that’s the game you’re looking at.’’
Around the rim
LeBron James attended the jersey retirement of former teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas in Cleveland on Saturday night, and while he’s still hated by his former fan base, it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be post “decision.’’ “Nothing will ever compare to the first time I went back [in the 2010-11 season],’’ James said. “It was all right [Saturday], it wasn’t bad.’’
◆ Jimmer Fredette didn’t get any minutes for the third-consecutive game.