The front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah once again proved just how much he means to his team on Monday night in Chicago as the Chicago Bulls cruised past the first-place Indian Pacers.
With Jimmy Butler, the team’s second-best defender, on the bench early in the second quarter with three fouls, Noah once again put his teammates on his back. He had just four points in the first half, but he also added five assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks. These numbers may not jump off the page, but they impacted the game greatly.
Noah would flirt with another triple-double, finishing the game with 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. That said, perhaps his best achievement was being able to get into the head of Pacers center Roy Hibbert.
Noah was able to frustrate Hibbert all night with his defense, and that frustration showed as Hibbert had to hit the bench midway through the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul while scoring only four points over the same period. Noah and Hibbert are developing a rivalry that stems from a general dislike for each other. In the second quarter, Noah had a hard foul on the shooting Hibbert, who promptly grabbed his head and flopped to the ground.
The resulting look of utter disgust on Noah’s face following Hibbert hitting the floor showed just how he really feels.
Many Bulls fans believe that Noah should not only win Defensive Player of the Year, but also get considerations in the race for league MVP. There is little doubt that without Noah, this Bulls team would be planning on entering the Jabari Parker sweepstakes with the other bottom feeders of the league. So why shouldn’t Noah at least be in the conversation?
He may not always be the top scorer, but Noah’s impact on this team is greater than stats. He is the motor for his team, and they will only go as far in the playoff as Noah can carry them.