By Mike McGraw
Joakim Noah had Ben Wallace in his corner and Marcus Fizer on his mind.
Actually, Noah may not have been thinking about Fizer, but did replace him in the record book.
Fizer had a disappointing NBA career overall, but he erupted for 30 points and 20 rebounds in a loss to Orlando on April 12, 2004. That was the most recent 30-20 game by a Bulls player — until now.
Noah delivered 30 points, 23 rebounds and tacked on 6 assists Friday during a 108-104 victory over Detroit at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Bulls have won 16 in a row against the Pistons.
According to espn.com, only three other NBA players have posted such numbers in the last 25 years.
“It’s crazy to have numbers like that,” Noah said. “I knew I was missing a lot of tips in the beginning of the game. In some arenas, they count as rebounds, and some other arenas, they don’t. I’m happy they counted.”
Ben Wallace, a Pistons legend and teammate of Noah during a portion of his rookie season in Chicago, sat courtside at the Palace. The two players remain close.
“That’s my vet,” Noah said. “To have him there, it means a lot. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Noah reached a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds by halftime, then kept piling it on. He scored his 30th point on a free throw with 8.6 seconds remaining. Noah’s previous career-highs were 26 points and 21 rebounds. He broke both marks in a single night.
“He was everywhere,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great rhythm going, played big minutes and played hard every minute.”
Thibodeau followed that statement with a challenge for his sixth-year center.
“It’s in him,” he said. “I think he’s got to continue to push himself. I think he could do a lot better than he’s doing right now. He’s worked at his game, but I still think there are things he could get to that he hasn’t gotten to yet.”
It wasn’t just Noah who had his way with the Pistons’ front line. Carlos Boozer scored 24 points, and both players hit 12 of 19 shots. Marco Belinelli had another good performance, with 16 points.
Another factor in this game is the Bulls fell behind by 17 points midway through the second quarter. At that point, the Pistons were shooting 68 percent from the field (21-for-31).
“It really started in the first quarter, because there was no defensive tone to the game,” Thibodeau said. “The second quarter was an abomination. We let guys get to their strengths. We gave them everything. You do that, you’re going to dig yourself a hole and we did.”
The Bulls turned it around quickly. After Charlie Villanueva’s floater with 4:30 left in the first half made it 53-46, the Bulls finished the quarter on a 14-2 run to pull within 5 by halftime.
The visitors tied the score at 64-64, then took a 71-70 lead when Kirk Hinrich drained a 3-pointer with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
Things continued to go the Bulls’ way down the stretch. Boozer lost the handle in the lane, went to the floor to regain possession, then threw a pass from his knees to Hinrich, who drained another 3-pointer. That basket put the Bulls ahead 92-87 with six minutes left.
A few minutes later, Boozer missed a jumper, Noah got the rebound and fired a pass to a cutting Boozer for a dunk. Luol Deng followed with a 3-pointer that made it 103-93 with 2:35 remaining.
Thibodeau rode the starters on Friday, with Noah, Deng and Belinelli all playing more than 40 minutes. Now the Bulls return home to play their fourth game in five nights against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Knicks.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.