While his six-point, 18-rebound, seven-assist, three-blocked shot stat line was typical of a Joakim Noah night, it was clear from the opening tip Tuesday evening that the All-Star center wasn’t quite himself in the Bulls’ Game 5, season-ending, 75-69 loss to the Wizards at the United Center.
Visibly hobbled while running the floor, Noah gutted out the contest and although it was teammate Taj Gibson that would have to leave the floor — with 7:51 remaining, Gibson suffered a gruesome left-ankle injury and unable to talk under his own power, had to receive assistance going to the locker room — the versatile offensive facilitator and defensive anchor would later acknowledge that he wasn’t at full strength, albeit reluctantly.
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“There’s really no excuses right now. It’s been a long year and yeah, I’ve got things I’ve got to take care of,” Noah said. “My knee. My knee is bothering me. My left knee. I’m not sure what it is, but I was able to play today. I think I was limited a little bit. But it’s no excuses. I’ll check it out, find out what’s wrong and take care of it. And now, we’ve got a lot of time to take care of it.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau revealed that Noah had been playing with the publicly undiagnosed ailment since the regular season.
“His knee has bothered him for a while. It’s more the whole second half of the year, but that’s not unusual,” the coach explained. “We’ll have it checked out and we’ll see where he is.”
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But Noah, as is his custom, couldn’t see the forest for the trees afterward, focusing on the Wizards’ offensive-rebounding prowess, how they seemed to gain possession of every available loose ball and how he performed in his individual matchup with Washington counterpart Nene.
“It’s very disappointing just to go out like that — free-throw rebounds. Definitely going to be thinking about that for a while and just thinking about it, there’s a lot of things I’ve got to do a lot better in my game,” he said. “I’m going to take that into the summer and I’m going to work my [expletive] off to become a better player, be even more ready for next year.”