Perhaps no team deflects more individual praise than the Bulls and while they couldn’t have come from behind 17 to defeat the Detroit Pistons 85-82 on Wednesday night – extending their win streak over their Central Division rivals to 17 – without the collective efforts of the team, it’s clear the energy of Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson continues to be assets as valuable as any they possess.
Down 68-57, Robinson would score nine-straight points during a 22-5 run to start the fourth period.
While his shot selection at times has been questioned this season, his effort, heart and intentions are always in the right place. On nights where he has it going, he’s capable of scoring outburst that only feed his never deterred confidence.
“That’s Nate,” Thibodeau said. “He made a lot of big time plays for us. He’s not afraid and I like and respect that about him.”
Robinson finished the game with 11 points, seven assists and played the entire fourth quarter.
“For me, my biggest asset to the game is energy,” Robinson said. “That’s something that I always pride myself on doing is playing as hard as I can and bringing the energy no matter if the place is rocking, or the place is dead. For us, we needed the lift. I just had to force the crowd to get out their seats and give us a little boost.
“It’s that Peter Pan theory: you can’t fly without happy thoughts,” he continued. For me, I just always think about my kids, even though I’m supposed to be focused on the game. For me, any little happy thought I can get. I just feel like I’m invincible and unstoppable.”
Added Noah on his neighboring locker room teammate: “We need Nate to be aggressive offensively. This is not the first time he’s carried us offensively in situations like that. I think that the more pick and rolls we put him in, especially when we’re getting stops, than he’s able to do his thing. I think that everything was about this game was flat. The energy in the building was quite and Nate came in, did his thing and really got us going. This isn’t the first time he’s done it. He’s won a lot of ball games for us.
Noah played the entire second half, finished with 10 points, 18 rebounds, while having his hands full with Detroit’s frontline of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
It was Noah’s hustle to save a loose ball from going out of bounds, off a bricked Marco Belinelli shot, to a driving Belinelli for the game’s winning shot and ensuing free throw.
“I stayed with the play,” Noah said. “The basketball gods were on our side, we got a little lucky. Something that’s not really a great play, because if Detroit gets it, it’s a four-on-five fast break . But I kept it in play and fortunately we got it. I didn’t really see it but I had the cheerleaders pom-pom’s in my face. Marco made the layup to seal it.”
The Bulls were so caught up in Belinelli’s score that they didn’t even think to go help up Noah, who stayed courtside, waiting for his teammates to come help him up. “It took forever, right?” Noah joked about his teammates slow reaction to help him upright.
“Incredible, quite frankly, I don’t know how he got to it,” Thibodeau said of Noah’s save. “Jo was something. 18 rebounds, he didn’t come out in the second half, great hustle plays. I thought our team spirit was terrific. I thought the way that unit was finishing the game, it inspired everybody.”
With the coaches’ votes for All-Star reserves being announced on Thursday, the Bulls have three potential candidates in Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Noah.
Never one to harp on individual praise and recognition, Noah wouldn’t say if he felt he had earned a spot, but said he would be honored and only time will tell.
Robinson was more forthcoming.
“Definitely. He just plays hard,” Robinson said. “His game might not look All-Star material, but he’s a hell of a player.”