Friday, April 23, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
Referring to Joakim Noah as Chicagos heart and soul is now an overused clich, but with his 10 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and immeasurable non-statistical impact tonight, the charismatic center proved his value, backing up his so-called disparaging remarks about the city of Cleveland with not only a tremendous individual outing (as was also the case in the Bulls Game 2 loss), but a victory in front of an appreciative United Center audience. Sometimes I say things and sometimes it gets a little blown out of proportion, but I dont want people to think that Im some kind of circus freak, said Noah in his postgame press conference. Im going out there and playing my heart and my soul out, giving it everything Ive got out there on the court. Just because I say things like, Cleveland sucks, doesnt mean Im not going out there on the court and giving it everything Ive got. Thats why I didnt talk to you guys the media, following Bulls practice on Wednesday.
Noah also noted that he cant wait to go back to Cleveland for Game 5 of the series on Tuesday, but while he acknowledged Cavaliers star LeBron James talent, he was hesitant to praise the likely MVP too much. Hes very good. I dont want to give him too much credit, we do have to play them again, but he is very good.
Derrick Rose shied away from any comparisons between himself and the aforementioned James, although he relished their matchup when James was switched onto him late in the contest. It surprised me a little bit, but it was fun out there, Ill tell you, said Rose in his postgame press conference, before delving into his strategy against James. Just get him off balance. My speed usually gets people off balance. Hes big, but hes got the same quickness as Ive got, so its kind of hard, but I think I took a layup on him, but the rest were jump shots. I was just trying to keep pressure on him so he could get exhausted on the other end. Rose scored 31 points and dished out seven assistsa frighteningly normal performance for the precocious budding superstarbut he was most proud of his zero-turnover outing. "Bulls assistant coach Randy Brown usually tells me that after every game. Hes more excited than I am about turnovers. Thats a big part of the game, especially in my game. I tend to turn the ball over a little bit, but Ive been working on it, observed Rose. Ive been making smarter decisions and delivering the ball where its supposed to be. Rose, who missed Wednesdays practice and subsequently lost his uncle later in the day, was dismissivein his typically humble fashionof Chicago fans chanting, M-V-P, when he was at the foul line tonight. Dont listen to them, man. Do not listen to them. I almost passed out, joked Rose. Hopefully one day, but not this year. Im just worried about winning games right now. Rose had another humorous comment about notably slow-footed teammate Brad Miller, saying, Brad Millerwe tell him to shoot the ball every timethe slowest guy in the NBA and he wants to drive.
In light of James monster numbersthe Cavaliers franchise player finished with 39 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks on the eveningLuol Dengs stout defensive effort against him will likely again go under appreciated, but not only did the Bulls small forward make his Cleveland counterpart and former high school summer rival work hard for everything he got on the offensive end, Deng had two key playsa gorgeous behind-the-back move that left James grasping air and a key late-game charge in the waning moments of the contestdirectly against James.
"As far as the charge, I kind of felt like he was going to go to the basket. At that time, he was driving a lot. If he pulled up for the jump shot, he probably would have had it. I just wanted to get in front of him, said Deng, who had 20 points in tonights affair. The refs took a while. I was on the floor and I was like, I hope this is not another and-one.I was really happy to see the refs point the other way. Describing his offensive move, Deng said, Honestly, its not something I had in mind. It just happenedit was just a reaction. I tried to drive middle and he jumped in front of me, took away the middle and I put it behind the back and went to the basket.
LeBron James individual effort was obviously fantastic, but the Cleveland star expressed some concern about his squads overall performance tonight. We came into the game a little bit too lax, I dont know why. Not a sense of urgency to start the game and allowed them to get in a real comfort zone, said James. We didnt have a lot of energy to start the game and as much as we crawled back in the second half, it didnt matter. James commented on the crucial aforementioned charge taken by Deng, a call he disagreed with. What did I see? I saw me and Luol, and I see him backpedaling. Me, as a driver, Im watching the defenders feet and Im seeing if hes stationary or hes still moving. To me, I see hes still backpedaling. As soon as I see him backpedaling, thats when I decided to take off. They called a charge. I havent seen a replay, but I know exactly what I saw on the court with the defender right in front of me.
James also discussed his late-game switch onto Rose, foreshadowing perhaps that matchup again later in the series. He does a lot of ball handling, so we dont want to put me on him for a long period of time. But in a game like this, where we had an opportunity to win and he was playing particularly well, I wanted to match up with, said James, who noted, I put myself on him. Tremendous player, great game by him. Great game by their team, but well see as the series goes on if I do move on to him a lot or if I dont.
With the lack of production by Cavaliers starting center Shaquille ONeal (who tailed off significantly from his Game 1 showing), James was questioned about Clevelands success with a smaller lineup. I think thats something were going to look at in the next couple days, James said. Weve been really, really good this year when weve played small. We become more athletic, we become faster.
It doesnt take away from our big lineup because we can also go big, he continued. Its a really effective lineup for us. About ONeal specifically, James said, Im not concerned about himwe need him to pick up his play and he knows that also. No matter who you areif youre the best player in the worldif you take an eight-week layoff, it definitely takes a toll on you. Were looking for him to try to be as productive as he can with that layoff, be a force on the interior and helps us win these games, and help us win Game 4 because thats the most important game.
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