Perhaps no team deflects more individual praise than the Bulls and while they couldnt have come from behind 17 to defeat the Detroit Pistons 85-82 extending their winning streak over their Central Division rivals to 17 without the collective efforts of the team, its clear that the energy of Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson continues to be an asset as valuable as any they possess.
Down 68-57, Robinson scored nine straight points during a 22-5 run to start the fourth period.
While his shot selection has been questioned at times, his effort, heart and intentions are always in the right place. On nights where he has it going, hes capable of a scoring outburst that only feeds his undeterred confidence.
Thats Nate, Thibodeau said. He made a lot of big time plays for us. Hes not afraid and I like and respect that about him.
Robinson finished the game with 11 points, seven assists and played the entire fourth quarter.
For me, my biggest asset to the game is energy, Robinson said. Thats something that I always pride myself on doing is playing as hard as I can and bringing the energy no matter if the place is rocking, or the place is dead. For us, we needed the lift. I just had to force the crowd to get out their seats and give us a little boost.
Its that Peter Pan theory: you cant fly without happy thoughts, he continued. "For me, I just always think about my kids, even though Im supposed to be focused on the game. For me, any little happy thought I can get. I just feel like Im invincible and unstoppable.
Added Noah on his neighboring locker room teammate: We need Nate to be aggressive offensively. This is not the first time hes carried us offensively in situations like that. I think that the more pick-and-rolls we put him in, especially when were getting stops, than hes able to do his thing. I think everything was about this game was flat. The energy in the building was quiet and Nate came in, did his thing and really got us going. This isnt the first time hes done it. Hes won a lot of ball games for us."
Noah played the entire second half and finished with 10 points and 18 rebounds, while having his hands full with Detroits frontline of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
It was Noahs hustle to save a loose ball from going out of bounds, off a bricked Marco Belinelli shot, to a driving Belinelli for the games winning shot and ensuing free throw.
I stayed with the play, Noah said. The basketball gods were on our side, we got a little lucky. Something thats not really a great play, because if Detroit gets it, its a four-on-five fast break. But I kept it in play and fortunately we got it. I didnt really see it but I had the cheerleaders pom-poms in my face. Marco made the layup to seal it.
The Bulls were so caught up in Belinellis score that they didnt even think to go help up Noah, who stayed courtside, waiting for his teammates to come help him up. It took forever, right? Noah joked about his teammates slow reaction to help him upright.
Incredible, quite frankly, I dont know how he got to it, Thibodeau said of Noahs save. Jo was something. 18 rebounds, he didnt come out in the second half, great hustle plays. I thought our team spirit was terrific. The way that unit was finishing the game, it inspired everybody.
With the coaches votes for All-Star reserves being announced on Thursday, the Bulls have three potential candidates in Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Noah.
Never one to harp on individual praise and recognition, Noah wouldnt say if he felt he had earned a spot, but said he would be honored and only time will tell.
Robinson was more forthcoming.
Definitely. He just plays hard, Robinson said. His game might not look All-Star material, but hes a hell of a player.