2013 NBA Playoffs: Chicago Bulls' Success Hinges on Play of Joakim Noah

By Ryan Heckman

The Chicago Bulls showed up in game two of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs in a way that they should have at the start of game one. Game one featured a dominant performance by the Brooklyn Nets, especially from the Nets’ big men Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche.

Game two, however, was a different story. The Bulls finally played the type of defense that head coach Tom Thibodeau is known for preaching. Down low, there was more of a physical presence established from Chicago’s bigs. Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and even reserve center Nazr Mohammed got into the action and helped the Bulls come away with a victory to tie the series at one game apiece.

It was the gritty heart and play by Noah, though, that pushed the Bulls towards the level they are capable of playing. Noah has been battling a foot injury, plantar fasciitis, that had kept him out several games during the regular season. Many speculated whether or not he would even miss the rest of the playoffs due to the pain.

In only a way that he can do, Noah fought through the pain and gave the Bulls a huge lift in emotion and momentum throughout the game. This type of play and effort is what will separate the Bulls from the Nets and carry them into the second round.

If you hadn’t caught it, earlier in the month Noah tweeted saying “Lots of basketball left chi. Just watch.” That led many to believe he would try and fight through the injury and get back into Chicago’s rotation. Reports even as late as the morning before game one had said he was out for the game that night. Low and behold, Noah suited up for game one and started for the Bulls.

Noah is a winner. It’s what he does. If he is on the court, you will get every single ounce of energy and effort from this guy no matter what. In today’s game where it is all about flash and excitement a lot of the time, Noah defies the stereotype of 21st century professional basketball.

He plays an ugly game. Everything about it is ugly. Heck, everything about him is not exactly the most attractive. Yet, I don’t think he cares a bit. He’s out there with his long wavy hair flying around in a pony tail throwing up his signature “tornado” jump shot – self-given title, by the way – and simply playing the game his way.

Whether the Bulls are up 20, down 20 or within striking distance, Noah is the exact same player. Injured or not, his play determines the pace the Bulls are going to play at. You won’t see many centers in the NBA leading a fast break or taking the ball from the top of the key into the paint and finishing on their own, but that’s exactly what Noah brings to the table.

Not many centers can pass the ball like he can, block like he can nor rebound in such a tenacious way he can. Few have the skills to do each of those things separately, but Noah brings all of them to the table.

Going into game three tonight, the United Center will be happy to see their Bulls back at home. Right away in the first quarter, look for Noah to be aggressive in every way possible. Though star point guard Derrick Rose may be out still, there’s no way Noah will allow that excuse to be made for going home early. The Madhouse on Madison will be absolutely nuts  tonight, and I have a feeling in his own unique way, so will the big man down low.

Ryan Heckman is a writer for RantSports.com covering the NBA and NFL. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.



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