Joakim Noah has become the NBA's most prolific passing big man at least since Vlade Divac retired.
Noah had 4 key assists down the stretch as the Bulls won a physical battle with the Sacramento Kings 94-87 on Saturday night at the United Center. Noah turned in another monster performance, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 blocks.
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After the game, though, Noah mentioned one aspect of his game he enjoys more than anything else -- when those sideways-spinning jump shots fall through the net. That has been happening with frequency.
"It just feels great because so many people were telling me not to take it," Noah said in the locker from. "I'm confident now, that I feel like if I'm open I need to knock that down. It's a great feeling.
"I'm not going to lie, that's like the best thing to me ever is knocking down a jump shot, because there are so many people who told me, 'You can't shoot. Don't shoot. You're an energy guy. You're not supposed to be shooting jump shots.'
"To knock that down, there's just no better feeling."
Even though the Kings were the only losing team to hit town during the Bulls' challenging six-game homestand, they hung tough all night by creating a 55-40 rebounding advantage.
The Bulls didn't take the lead for good until a Mike Dunleavy 3-pointer with 6:15 remaining. After that, Noah passes created most of the highlights.
Actually, one highlight included no passes. Noah picked up a loose ball on the Sacramento end and dribbled all the way for a lay-in while getting fouled by DeMarcus Cousins. Noah missed the free throw, but his 75-foot drive put the Bulls ahead 79-74 with 5:10 left.
A few minutes later, Noah threw a lob to Jimmy Butler for a hanging bank shot. When the Kings were slow getting back on defense after a ball was knocked out of bounds, Noah heaved a long pass to Taj Gibson for a lay-in and 3-point play.
"He was wide open. I had to do it," Noah said.
Gibson's 3-point play gave the Bulls their biggest lead of the night at 86-78. But after a quick basket by Cousins (25 points, 14 rebounds) and a 3-pointer from Thomas (26 points), Sacramento as back within 3 points.
Gibson gave the Bulls some breathing room by rebounding a miss and getting fouled. Then with the lead still at 3, Noah drove and dished a pass to Gibson, who drained a corner jumper to make it 90-85 with 42.2 seconds left.
"Overall, I'm just happy we won because I think a lot of things didn't go our way tonight," Noah said. "We just found a way."
The Bulls were hammered by the Kings 99-70 in Sacramento on Feb. 3, so they should have known to take this game seriously.
The Kings shot just 36.5 percent overall, hit 2 of 14 attempts from 3-point range and compiled an assist-turnover ratio of 12-18. But rebounding is something they did well with Cousins, former Nets power forward Reggie Evans and Jason Thompson.
"Tonight, we needed all five on the boards," said Gibson, who finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds. "You hear Thibs (coach Tom Thibodeau) calling my name every play, 'Taj, box out, rebound.' So I'm just trying to get in there.
"Any kind of chippy thing you can do in a rough game like that with a physical team like that, it's going to go a long ways."