When the Bulls needed to separate themselves from the Detroit Pistons in the fourth quarter Wednesday night, they knew exactly what to do.
Put the ball in the hands of their 7-foot center and let him create.
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Joakim Noah produced his second triple-double in three games and fifth double-digit assist game in the last 14 to help lead the Bulls to a 105-94 victory.
This game was close for three quarters but a mismatch when it mattered most. The Bulls opened the final quarter with an 18-4 run, pushing their 1-point lead into an 89-74 advantage midway through the fourth. Noah finished with 10 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.
"The thing about Jo, he can beat you a lot of different ways," coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after the game. "Sometimes it's his defense and rebounding. Sometimes it's his passing. Sometimes it's his scoring.
"He's not satisfied with how our team is playing. We feel like there's another jump we can make, and we're going to have to."
The Bulls (34-27) have won 10 of their last 12 and have gone 22-9 since Jan. 1. They'll return for a six-game homestand, but it won't be easy. The opponents include Memphis, Miami, San Antonio, Houston and Oklahoma City.
On Wednesday, two reserves were the top scorers. Guard D.J. Augustin finished with 26 points, while Taj Gibson added 22. Jimmy Butler contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Noah got off to a slow start. During the fourth quarter, though, he contributed 8 points and 5 assists. Augustin scored 14 in the final quarter.
"Jo's our leader, and a triple-double is nothing to him," Butler said. "We are starting to expect that from him. He does so many things well that it makes it easier for the rest of us."
There were reports Noah had his thumb wrapped after the game and said he'd have it checked when the team returns home.
"He's been on an incredible roll for a long time," Thibodeau added. "The Brooklyn game (Monday) was really his first down game. He's just in there battling. He's patient. He really wasn't struggling (Wednesday), but he wasn't in rhythm like he normally is.
"He just kept working the game, and I think that's where his experience has come in. He sizes things up, keeps working, then all of the sudden you'll see him get 4, 5 rebounds in a row. You see him run the floor.
"It's huge, the rebounding, the defense, the passing. His points, we need his points. If people are going to sit on his pass, he's got to score. And he's shown that."