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Joakim Noah delivers again for Bulls in win over Nets

Chicago Bulls vs Brooklyn Nets. Chicago Bulls No.13 Joakim Noah  drives ball up court. Noah scored fifteen points 1st

Chicago Bulls vs Brooklyn Nets. Chicago Bulls No.13 Joakim Noah drives the ball up court. Noah scored fifteen points in the 1st half March 2nd, 2013 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 4, 2013 6:56AM



Until Derrick Rose returns, the Bulls’ hopes seem to rest somewhat uncomfortably on the broad shoulders, huge heart and brittle feet of Joakim Noah.

Whether a comfortable 96-85 victory against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday at the United Center — the Bulls’ second consecutive convincing victory — means they have emerged from a February lull, their fortunes seem tied to the
effervescent Noah.

Following up a career-best triple-double against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night, Noah led the way again with 21 points on
10-for-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.

‘‘In he last two games, he’s been unbelievable,’’ Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said. ‘‘He was always superactive with rebounding and defense. Now he’s playing a lot better offensively, making good decisions and shooting well. He is kind of typical of what [the Bulls] are doing.’’

The Noah effect is not new with the Bulls. His energy and effort are contagious. Carlos Boozer added 20 points and eight rebounds. Kirk Hinrich was efficient on offense (12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, 2-for-3 on three-point attempts) and workmanlike on defense against Nets guard Deron Williams (14 points on 4-for-12 shooting, 1-for-5 on three-point attempts, six assists).

Nate Robinson (12 points on 4-for-9 shooting) was under control. And Jimmy Butler played his role to perfection as the Bulls (34-25) leapfrogged the Nets
(34-26) into fifth place in the Eastern Conference — with a chance to gain more ground and make a bigger statement against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

‘‘We need it. The way [Noah] is playing is really inspiring to the rest of the team,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘It inspires. It
ignites. It makes everybody get on board with it.’’

But when the 6-11 center scores as he has the last two games, it takes the Noah effect to a new level.

The game Saturday marked the first time in his six-year NBA
career that Noah has scored 20 or more points in consecutive games. The previous five times he did it this season, he had averaged nine points the next game.

If Noah can maintain this kind of staying power, it might be worth dreaming again — of Rose’s return and more.

‘‘I don’t know. I mean, it’s just ... you know, opportunity,’’ Noah said. ‘‘Just [going] harder to the basket. My teammates are looking for me. I’m not really doing anything differently than I’ve been doing. It’s just stats, I guess.’’

After falling behind by 11 in the first four minutes of the game, the Bulls slowly but surely reeled in the Nets. Down 39-38 with 4:35 left in the second quarter, the Bulls scored the final 15 points of the first half to take a 53-39 lead.

‘‘He excels in every aspect of the game,’’ Butler said. ‘‘The way he scores, passes the ball, defends. He always has at least two or three in every category — not to mention 20 points, 20 rebounds.

‘‘It’s amazing to see the energy that he brings and how it transfers from the offensive end all the way back to the defensive end.’’



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