Joakim Noah is Chicago Basketball

The Bulls beat the Nets last night largely for one reason. Joakim Noah wanted it more. There's a reason why over the past few years, Derrick Rose has been viewed as the talent while Joakim Noah has been viewed as the soul. We saw all of that on display last night in one of the gutsier performances you'll see on the court.

The Bulls took a 14 point lead into the fourth quarter, and it looked like a reasonably easy finish was on the way for Chicago. However, shortly afterwards, the Bulls that lost by 17 the previous game showed up.

They went three minutes without scoring while Andray Blatche beasted them. Suddenly a 14 point lead was down to five. Then Joakim Noah scored on a dunk. Flew out of bounds to save an offensive rebound that led to a wide open Nate Robinson three, and pulled down another offensive board for a putback.

When the game was slipping away Joakim gave them the momentum to swing it back. The Nets fought back again, bringing the lead down to four, and Noah was again part of the run when to build back the lead (falling two Hinrich free throws and a Deng jumper) when he drove around Brook Lopez on a broken play for a layup.

Then with a minute left to go, he swatted away Brook Lopez's shot and the Nets last realistic shot at getting back in the game ended when the ball went out of bounds off C.J. Watson.

Joakim entered the game with around seven minutes to go and in that time pulled down six boards (three offensive), scored eight points, and had one block while barely able to walk, wincing after every jump and obvious pain as he ran down the floor.

I don't like the Bulls to win this series right now even after this game two victory, but Joakim Noah was legitimately inspiring last night. Joakim Noah is why I watch sports. To see someone want it so much, sacrifice so much, play through so much, and win on sheer willpower alone.

That's heart.

That was beautiful.

Thank you for that Joakim, Chicago loves you.

Where does the series stand now?

In the end, the Bulls brought the defense this game, and the Nets probably fell back down to Earth on their shooting somewhat. Gerald Wallace, who sucked all season, went back to sucking. Deron Williams had a non Deron Williams like 1-9 performance, and Joe Johnson looked a lot more like I expected he would jacking up 18 shots while making six.

In the end, the Nets shot just 35.4% from the field, and that was your ball game. They lived at the foul line to keep it close and made 20/23 free throws to keep the pressure on, but they simply couldn't hit enough shots.

The Bulls offense was pretty good and only a 12/23 performance from the foul line and poor three point shooting kept this game within the realm of reason.

The good news for Chicago is that they've shot the ball at a fairly high percentage against the Nets in both games. If they continue that then you'd think they'd have an excellent chance in the series.

That said it feels like the Bulls are frequently overmatched in terms of talent. They need to play harder and want it more to impact the game, and while Joakim Noah gave the Bulls all he had last night, it's going to be tough for him to repeat his courageous performance for another three to five games if his foot (as expected) doesn't heal.

Derrick Rose looked active on the sidelines

Derrick Rose looked like he was chewing out Carlos Boozer at one point, and Taj Gibson noted that Rose was eager to get out there. The team as a whole says all the right things about Rose, and beyond that, I think they legitimately believe all the right things about him.

They look at it differently than the rest of us. They've all been hurt. They've all had the media and fans question their toughness. They know what it's like to be in his shoes to some degree. They know it sucks. I don't think there's any bad will at all about Rose sitting out internally even as fans become frustrated watching Joakim Noah bleed Chicago all over the court while Rose sits on the sidelines.

If Rose helps inspire the team by sitting on the bench than it's a great thing, however, I think for fans it's almost like rubbing salt in the wound to put him out their visibly as a constant reminder that he's not playing when many of us feel like he could.

As I've said before, I can't judge Derrick's injury. I don't know how capable he is of playing or why he's really not. I do know that regardless of the reason for him not playing, it's not good at this point. He should be healthy enough mentally and physically to play by now, and the fact that he isn't represents a problem. It's just a matter of which and how big that problem is.

Game three is key

The Bulls went into Brooklyn and ripped game two from the Nets hands like Kirk Hinrich on Chris Bosh, but they'll need to find a way to keep up that momentum back at the United Center.

The Bulls have been a lousy home team this season, and they'll need to solve that problem awfully fast to take this series as when you enter a game tied, the winner of the next game typically has around an 80% shot at closing out the series.

Let's see what they have left.

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  • Maybe Noah has 1 or 2 more games like that left in him. He has a few days to rest foot. Come Thursday a fully expect Jo to do the same especially playing at home getting energy from crowd. Notice even though his mid range shot wasn't falling for him it didn't break his confidence.

    I expect Noah to hit a few more jumpers being at home and all. Still waiting for jimmy and taj to have big impact on game!!! Jimmy need to strep up and knock some shots down. Taj need to stay out of foul trouble! Give us some solid defense and 8 points off the bench.

    This need to make adjustment to feed boozer more. He can't be stopped by nets!

    bulls in 6!

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    I picked the Bulls in six before the playoffs started. At one a piece and watching two games, I'd probably take the Nets right now, but it's easy to see how it could go either way.

  • Since the Bulls are so Jekyll and Hyde, this has all the makings of a 7 game series, and I have no idea who wins it? On paper, Brooklyn is more talented, but Chicago brings a blood and guts mentality to the floor, which cannot be overlooked. If Chicago makes it out of this round, I think there’s a chance Rose plays against the Heat. The pressure for him to get out there is mounting and he knows it, especially when he sees Noah playing with a severe foot injury.

  • In reply to RichG:

    I can't imagine that Rose plays against Miami. I think he's scared of failure at this point.

  • In reply to RichG:

    Great playoff win by the Bulls. They made the necessary adjustments that needed to be made to slow down the rest of the Nets team while Lopez got his points. He had to work hard for those points as Noah and the front line guys pretty much clogged the lane. Overall great team and grind out win, now if only the Bulls can hold on to the home court advantage to win the series in six would be nice but I know its probably not going to happen. And I wish fans would stop with the daily Rose shots cause at this point it is water under the bridge. If he decides to shut it down, good for him and see ya next year. And if he decides to play this year then great, the Bulls will have an extra scoring option or a decoy at best. But bottom line...bulls fans need to chill with the taking shots at Rose comments...GET OVER IT ALREADY!!!

  • In reply to Reese1:

    It really is beating a dead horse at this point.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    You're right, I could probably let it go. Taj Gibson's comments about Rose "being eager to play" brought it back up in my head, but it's probably better to just let it go.

    While I'm disappointed and concerned Rose isn't playing, I'm certainly not holding it against him when he does come back or suggesting the Bulls trade him. It's just not a good scenario right now, but you have no viable way to replace Rose, so you have to just hope it works out.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Doug, I don't mind your comments on Rose at all. Along with Reese, I'm tired of the critics who pile on him after every game for not playing. Let's get over it.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I'm with you, I really don't know what to make of Gibsons comment, it makes it seem like he has some inside info that Rose might be coming back if we make it through this round.

  • In reply to RichG:

    If Rose is scared of coming back and not being at his best do you really think he'll choose to come back against a team that will - by the time they sweep the Bucks - have won 41 of their past 43 games?

  • You're right, you can't judge Rose's injury. So stop doing it in half your posts. Also, note to you and the rest of the morons bashing Rose: Plantar Fasciitis isn't the same as a torn knee ligament.

  • In reply to tylercc1989:

    You're right, Derrick Rose is almost certainly radically healthier than Joakim Noah right now. It's not the same thing at all.

  • I see this game much differently. I do admire Jo's toughness and I think he made a big impact on the game, but Kirk totally outplaying D Will on both ends of the court was the biggest factor in the outcome of this game to me. Holding D Will to 1/9 shooting while outscoring him deserves some recognition. Especially b/c he is killed frequently (not lately though) by Doug and others that comment on this blog.

    One time for Captain Kirk!!!

  • In reply to muckfiami:

    Deron Williams looked like someone baked in more than fudge in the pre-game brownies. If he had been snacking on Cheeto's and White Castles during timeouts, I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised.

    Between Noah's uptick and Deron's comedown, there was the game.

  • In reply to Salvamini:

    No love for Kirk?? Smh... Kirk, Noah and the overall hustle of the Bulls team is why we won the game last night.

  • In reply to muckfiami:

    Good point, Hinrich did a great job. I guess I just remember the end game so much where Noah completely took over the game at key junctures.

  • This may be a weird comparison, and maybe it was cause he was injured, but Noah reminds me of Vlade Divac from the 2002 Sacramento Kings. If you watch Vlade in that series vs. LA, he doesn't make any mistakes with or without the ball. Its a master class on how big man should leverage their skill and size. I think Noah, like Vlade, is a cerebral enough player to make meaningful contributions even though he's injured.

  • Thats why Noah has been my favorite Bulls player since the Jordan era. I even liked him in his rookie season when 90+ percent of the fans didn't want to draft him and desperately wanted to get rid of him when he had his problems with the gang of bum veterans on that team.

    Totally agree with you about Rose. At this point, I don't know what is worse, that he refuses to play when he appears to be healthy enough to do so. Or worse yet, his knee isn't really ready to play in games, which could very well mean that it will never be the same and his career could be over, at least as an elite MVP caliber player.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yes, you do know what is worse. It's worse if "his knee isn't really ready to play in games, which could very well mean that it will never be the same and his career could be over, at least as an elite MVP caliber player." Period.

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  • Noah is the Bulls most important player even when Rose is healthy. Rose may be closer to some sort of platonic ideal of a basketball player, but Noah is more valuable to this team.

    If the Bulls can continue to get half a game out of Noah like that then they may just have a chance in the series, but I think there's a strong chance his foot flares up and we see more game 1 hobbled performances which would just doom them.

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