Anyone who has paid attention to Chicago Bulls basketball since Tom Thibodeau has been at the helm knew that the team was not going to come out lackluster in Game 2, there would be no repeat of the blasé attitude that was uncharacteristically present in the Game 1 beatdown at Barclays.
Tom Thibodeau had his men ready, and as always he counted on one particular warrior to help inspire the troops. Joakim Noah was only supposed to play between 20-25 minutes according to the coach (he played 25:29), but it was his play in the final five minutes that helped seal the 90-82 win; made even more special for Noah considering he played high-school ball at nearby Poly Prep, and gets booed on the regular at both New York arenas despite being from the city.
“No question about,” Noah said after the win. “Just to be able to play in the playoffs is something I’ll never take for granted and to be able to do it in front of my loved ones and my family, it’s just something that’s really special to me.
“It feels to come out with a win tonight, we showed a lot of resiliency – we came out flat in Game 1 – it was a great team effort.”
Noah played through a bout of plantar fasciitis in his right foot, a condition that had clearly hobbled him in the opening game of the series, but one that he would not let get the better of him on Monday night. Perhaps by design, Thibodeau seemed to rest Noah at the right times throughout the game to keep him fresh for the crunch minutes. Noah scored 5 of his 11 points points in the final 1:58 – including a crucial running hook shot that all but sealed the win.
“I thought overall, I thought Jo was very rusty in the first game but willed it, and I thought he willed it again tonight and we needed every bit of it,” coachThibodeau said. “To me, it’s obvious we’re a much better team with him on the floor.”
He finished with a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) and teammate Nate Robinson paid tribute to Noah’s ability to play through the pain.
“He’s playing on one foot,” said Robinson. “That just shows he’s a true warrior.”
The Bulls came to Brooklyn and got the split they wanted, now they head back to the confines of the United Center and their raucous fans. Noah says he and the team will be ready to handle their business.
“Oh, it’s a whole other ball game out there. It’s not even comparable, this [Brooklyn] is a great place to play basketball [but] these are new fans here. They’ve been doing this a long time over there in Chi, so Chi-Town’s going to be ready on Thursday,” said Noah. “We’ll be ready, they’ll be ready. That’s what it’s all about.
“I haven’t played in a long time, so the more I’m on the court and if my foot is willing, it’s going to get better.
Image via: Gemini Keez