“What do you want me to say? Yeah, I’m tired, pretty tired,” Joakim Noah admitted. “We’ve got a great coach, but he doesn’t understand the whole rest thing yet, I don’t think. But it’s all good. We all want to win, so it’s good.”
After playing over 41 minutes Saturday night, All-Star center had a right to feel physically spent.
Noah came up with another outstanding performance—21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four blocked shots and two steals, on the heels of his 23-point, 21-rebound, 11-block game Thursday against Philadelphia, but it wasn’t so much what aforementioned Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau did, but the why.
Thibodeau isn’t the type of guy to look ahead, so let’ throw out the fact that the Bulls have a game the following evening, against division rival Indiana, on the road.
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But even knowing his modus operandi, what can’t be ignored is that with 6:35 remaining in Saturday’s eventual 96-85 win, the Bulls were up by 20 points, 86-66, when he reinserted Noah.
“We were fortunate. We started off the game very slowly, got ourselves into a big hole, battled back, did a lot of things well to build the lead and then hung on,” he said after the game, giving his version of events. “I thought we started slowly and I liked the way we played for the rest of the game until there were about six minutes left. Often times, when you get a big lead, you’ve got to play tough with the lead and I just thought we got a little loose and casual. That’s certainly not something that we want.
“I saw the way the game was going. You’re jogging back and they’ve got a lot of three-point shooting on the floor, a 10-point lead can dissipate in a minute. You knock down three threes, you’ve got a foul, boom and then we were in the penalty, and we’re recklessly fouling. We’ve got to do better,” Thibodeau “It’s [Sunday’s matchup with the Pacers] a big game because it’s the next game.”
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So, there you have it.
The man Noah referred to as a “mad scientist” simply doesn’t see things the rest of us do, which is both a gift and a curse.
A curse, for sure, when one considers that things started going the other way when his tired regulars—including Luol Deng, who played over 44 minutes, and Kirk Hinrich, who played nearly 39; both, like Noah, probably could have used the rest—were outhustled by Brooklyn’s benchwarmers.
But lest we forget, it’s also a gift, as Thibodeau’s famed intensity is the reason why the offensively-deficient and undermanned Bulls can still compete with even the league’s upper-echelon teams on any given night, provided that they’re clicking on all cylinders.
“I don’t have a choice. This is my job and this is my life. Everything is built around this. There’s nothing better right now than winning basketball games. It’s been an up-and-down year, but I really feel that when we’re playing our best, we can beat a lot of people, so the potential is definitely there and I think when we’re playing confident and we’re playing together, I think we can make some noise and there’s no better feeling than doing that in the playoffs,” Noah explained. “It doesn’t matter [what observers believe about the Bulls]. It really doesn’t matter. I know that our building is always packed and they show us a lot of love in Chicago. Like I said, it’s up and down, but I know that when we’re playing good basketball, we’re tough to beat. We can beat anybody.”
While Noah’s comments about his weariness will certainly garner a lot of attention, what can’t be forgotten is that regardless of Thibodeau’s methods, his players believe just as fervently as their “mad scientist” coach.