Noahs triple-double leads Bulls past Celtics
Bulls center Joakim Noah defends the Celtics' Paul Pierce as Pierce goes up for a layup Tuesday night. Noah finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
By Mike McGraw
When the Boston Celtics walked into the United Center on Tuesday, coming from two days off after 2 bad losses in Texas, odds were small that anyone would get more assists than Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics' point guard leads the NBA with 3.5 more assists per game than second-place Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Joakim Noah accomplished the unlikely feat. He produced his second triple-double of the season, finishing with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as the Bulls rolled past Boston 100-89.
The game wasn't nearly as close as the final score suggests. The Celtics scored the final 10 points during garbage time. Rondo played well, finishing with 26 points but just 8 assists.
"I always tell everybody I'm a point center anyway," Noah said in the locker room. "I always feel like I can pass the ball. I feel more comfortable with the offense. We have a lot of people who can score in different ways."
Noah has long been one of the Bulls' best passers and is averaging 4.5 assists on the season. Boston coach Doc Rivers was especially appreciative of the effort.
"It kills you. Noah's terrific," Rivers said. "At times, without (Derrick) Rose, we really consider him their point guard. He makes their decisions. He bails them out.
"I bet 10 times in the first half, it was a late clock, he flashes to the ball and makes a play, either by scoring or with his passing.
"He's just an extremely high-IQ basketball player. I've said it for four years now, and it's getting higher and higher."
Noah got things started by assisting on the Bulls' first 4 baskets. The home team opened a 13-point lead in the second quarter, and Boston then cut it to 3 at one point in the third quarter.
But the Bulls (14-10) answered with a 9-0 run and opened a 20-point advantage midway through the fourth.
Carlos Boozer was the beneficiary of several Noah passes. Boozer finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Luol Deng also scored 21.
"He's probably the best passing big man in the league," Boozer said of Noah. "Honestly, he's like a point forward for us, because we run a lot of plays through him to get other guys.
"You see how efficient he is. He'll have a lot more games like that, with this system, because a lot of our stuff goes through Jo."
The Bulls had an interesting point-guard rotation Tuesday. Kirk Hinrich had his hands full trying to guard Rondo and went scoreless in 24 minutes of action, with 2 assists and 4 fouls.
When Boston (12-12) visited the United Center last month, backup Nate Robinson was toasted by Rondo. This time Robinson had a strong response, with 18 points. He knocked down 5 of 7 attempts from 3-point range.
"Jo plays hard," Robinson said. "I feed off his energy every time I'm out there with him. He's an energy guy. I was teasing him in the game, 'Jo, you need 2 more assists. Come on, man, pass me the ball.'"
Coach Tom Thibodeau even found a way to work rookie Marquis Teague into the rotation. He played with Robinson for a while in the second quarter.
Taj Gibson tweaked a bad ankle at some point but continued to play. He limped in the locker room but felt confident he won't miss any time.
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