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Joakim Noah: All OK after tough week

Updated: April 20, 2014 10:33PM



If Joakim Noah was still hurting — and who wouldn’t be? — he didn’t want to show it.

The Bulls forward flew Friday to New York to honor his mentor Tyrone Green, who died of a heart attack. Green, who Noah said was “like a second father to me,” helped teach a teenage Joakim the game as a New York program director.

Noah practiced Saturday and, for the first time Sunday night, was asked about his hard week following the Bulls’ 102-93 Game 1 loss to the Wizards.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” he said.

Minutes later, someone inquired: Did he feel like himself?

“Yeah,” he said bluntly.

Noah’s teammates reached out to him over the weekend.

“Everybody made sure he was OK,” forward Taj Gibson said. “Just one of those things where you just have to play through it.

“It’s never easy to lose somebody close to you.

“But you got to put it behind you and know they’re in a better place and you’re playing for them. I think he has a greater appreciation now.

“I think that’s gonna help him play even better.”

Guard D.J. Augustin said Noah was “back to his normal self” Sunday.

“Before the game, he was energized and hyped, and ready for the game,” he said.

When it started, the Bulls’ big men were outclassed by two Wizards.

Starting for the first time since February, Nene went 11-for-17 for a game-high 24 points, pulling down eight rebounds and dishing out three assists.

“He’s very versatile,” Noah said. “He can do a lot of things: Post up. He can shoot.”

Marcin Gortat was almost as good, going 6-for-10 for 15 points. He had 13 rebounds, five on the offensive glass.

“We definitely have to play better on defense,” Noah said, “And it starts with me.”

While Nene was dominating, Gortat was slipping behind the Bulls for easy shots.

“He was moving without the ball,” Gibson said. “At times when we were about Nene, he was sneaking in there, finding layups. . . .

“We didn’t want to give up layups, and he had a field day.”

Coach Tom Thibodeau said, bluntly, that the team’s defense “wasn’t very good.”

Noah, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, sounded confident the Bulls would make adjustments. He called pace “one of the keys to the series,” saying that neither team wants to have to score against the other’s set defense.

“We definitely have to pick up our intensity,” Noah said. “Up 13 (in the third quarter), I think we exhaled a little bit. They came back.

Bad turnovers, they came back and got some easy scores.

“We just have to make our adjustment. . . .

“This is chess. This isn’t checkers.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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