Joakim Noah drops 4th triple-double of season in Bulls’ win
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter April 9, 2014 9:22PM
Updated: April 9, 2014 10:35PM
MINNEAPOLIS — At some point, maybe Joakim Noah will be able to sit back on some beach, kick his feet up and actually think about what he accomplished this season.
Not now, not yet.
That was obvious after the Bulls’ 102-87 victory Wednesday over the Minnesota Timberwolves in which Noah scored 15 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and handed out 10 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season and the seventh of his career. After the game, Noah only cared about one stat: the win.
“It was a good win for us, it feels good to play well, but the most important thing is winning,’’ Noah said. “We got four games left. Just trying to stay focused, keep our mind on progress, and everything else that comes with it is a bonus.’’
Noah also surpassed Tom Boerwinkle for the most assists in a season by a Bulls center, and, while gratifying, it’s again a thought for a later day.
“I feel real comfortable making plays for my teammates, being aggressive when I have to, just taking it day-by-day, trying to get better in every aspect of my game,’’ Noah said. “All this stuff is just giving me more confidence, and I want more.’’
The victory was the sixth in a row for the Bulls (46-32), and it kept them neck-and-neck with the Toronto Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff seedings.
Noah’s team-first attitude was just what coach Tom Thibodeau wanted to hear.
“Jo was terrific throughout,’’ Thibodeau said of Noah’s latest performance. “That’s the most important thing. The best thing about him is the winning part of it, and that’s what separates him from most. There’s a lot of guys that score more than he does, the rebounding is obviously terrific, but the passing also tells you how he sees the game. He’s always going to hit the open man if you move without the ball and you’re open.
“He doesn’t care about his own statistics. He just cares about winning. When you have your best players like that, it sets a great tone for the team.’’
They were facing a hot team at the Target Center, too, as the Timberwolves (39-39) had victories over the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs in the last week. But while the Timberwolves are getting ready for the draft, the Bulls have a different priority list.
The Bulls led 75-70 at the start of the fourth quarter but increased the lead to double digits rapidly. The offense was efficient, but it was their typical smothering defense that did the trick again.
After Luc Mbah a Moute made an 18-footer with 11 minutes left, the Timberwolves had only one field goal over the next three minutes. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler scored five points and Taj Gibson added four in that span, and the Bulls never looked back.
The Bulls actually were slow out of the gate and were down at halftime on the scoreboard and in the rebounding and energy departments. But Noah raised the stakes with his own play.
“Energy, toughness, heart,’’ Gibson said. “When we were lackadaisical on offense after being off three days, Noah was the one guy who sparked us. He and D.J. [Augustin] brought the energy.’’