Joakim Noah had every reason to enjoy this victory. Though it wasn’t a win-or-go-home playoff game this time for the Chicago Bulls, a 96-89 road win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night felt pretty damn good. This time it was personal. While coach Tom Thibodeau tried to downplay any pregame mentions of revenge as a motivation, Bulls fans everywhere certainly wanted some big-time getback. And we got it, even if only for one night.
We all remember how Sixers fans showed out in last season’s playoffs, cheering when poor Jo finally surrendered early in Game 6, the pain of his injured ankle unbearable. He had no business playing in that game and may have worsened the injury. Philly sports fans are who we thought they were, and their celebration at the time of our wounded warrior only added salt in the wounds. No one has forgotten. Noah certainly isn’t letting it go.
The trademark “gun-fingers” were locked and loaded this go ‘round as Noah dropped a team-high 21 points, seven boards, five assists while adding three blocks. Even better, Luol Deng finally came back to life with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Hallelujah!
The fact that the team shot 24-for-26 from the free throw line is almost unthinkable.
Nate Robinson started for Kirk Hinrich, who was out with a knee injury. Nate dropped 14 points but more importantly did a solid job of hanging with the blinding speed of Sixers guard Jrue Holiday. Granted, Jrue did record 26 points, but just imagine if Captain Kirk was available?
It could’ve been all bad. Marquis Teague even got some action, and his quickness definitely helped defend Holiday from just running wild. Spot minutes like these will likely benefit the rookie as the season moves ahead, if only to help relieve that deer-in-headlights look he sometimes gets.
The Bulls improved to 12-9 and will say hello to the Brooklyn Nets when they visit the United Center on Saturday in their first game this season. Here’s a tip for Coach Thibs: roll with Robinson and Marco as the backcourt starters. The talents of vets like Hinrich and Rip Hamilton are better-suited for a second unit in need of direction. And please, let’s get Jimmy Butler more minutes.
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