Contributor to CSNChicago.com
MINNEAPOLIS — Joakim Noah had quite the night Wednesday.
Noah recorded his seventh-career triple-double during the team’s 102-87 win over the Timberwolves at the Target Center. He also set a franchise mark for most assists by a center in a season.
But after the game, however, the two-time all-star didn’t appear too interested in his statistical accomplishments.
“All of those things are humbling,” Noah said, “but it just makes me hungrier to play even better, and I feel like I can still get better."
Noah has been key for Bulls as they have turned their 2013-14 season around. He’s on pace to set career highs in points per game (12.5), rebounds per game (11.1) and assists per game (5.2).
“Offensively he’s a lot more confident,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “We’re telling him to take those looks, and he’s not looking for more assists. He’s just being a lot more unselfish. Instead of getting the ball and giving it up to a guard, he’s trying to make plays.”
Noah’s newfound style was on display Wednesday. Not only did he pester all-star forward Kevin Love on defense — he held Love to just 17 points — he also made displayed a willingness to take the ball to the hoop.
“For Joe, it’s hard to measure all he does for the team,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said, “because when you see him make three or four or five efforts on the same play, is there a stat for that? No. When he swings the ball quickly to somebody where he doesn’t get the assist, where there’s a trap a kick out and then another swing, there’s not a stat for that, but all those things lead to winning.”
Thibodeau said Noah is a strong leader because he makes hustle plays and because he is always looking to improve.
“He’s very talented, he’s very smart, he’s very driven, he said. “He knows how to take advantage of things, and the most important stat is measure the winning, and that’s what makes him special. That’s what makes him who he is.”
Noah said he’s been more comfortable making plays for his teammates during the past couple months. He also appears to have become more confident in his game, though he noted that his team was sluggish at the start of the game Wednesday.
“Just having three days off, it’s unbelievable on how quick that rhythm goes,” he said. “Overall I think we played a good second half, but we definitely need to pick the intensity up a little bit.”
The Bulls are fighting with Toronto for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, which could help them to avoid a second-round matchup with Miami. But just like his statistical accomplishments, Noah doesn’t seem too concerned about who the Bulls could face in the playoffs.
“We’re trying to play our best basketball,” he said. “If we get a three seed, we’ll take it, and if we don’t, we’ll take it as well.”