Preps Talk

Noah's career day leads Bulls to 16th straight win over Pistons

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Noah's career day leads Bulls to 16th straight win over Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. Now, after a signature performance Friday evening, the All-Star talk surrounding Joakim Noah is truly legitimate, if it wasnt before. The center had a career night in both points (30) and rebounds (23) in leading the Bulls (10-8) to a 108-104 victory over the Pistons (6-15) at The Palace at Auburn Hills.

Surprisingly, in a battle of two teams not exactly known for their offensive prowess, the matchup was a shootout early on, as each squad got off to a high-scoring start. Marco Belinellis (16 points) big night Wednesday in Cleveland apparently carried over, as the shooting guard, again filling in for the injured Rip Hamilton in the former Pistons stars former stomping grounds knocked down two triples to start his outing.

Additional Bulls point production came from Noah, who dominated the boards early, but they were countered by the young Pistons tandem of big man Greg Monroe (13 points) and point guard Brandon Knight (21 points), whose combined efforts made it a close-knit affair. After a quarter of play, the Bulls trailed their hosts, 30-26, in a bit of a step back defensively from recent performances.

It turned out that the opening period simply foreshadowed what was to come, as the Pistons absolutely blitzed their guests to begin the second quarter. Propelled by the scoring of Rodney Stuckey (24 points, seven assists), recently demoted to a reserve role, Detroit went on a tear, as even backup big men Charlie Villanueva (15 points) and rookie Andre Drummond made major impacts against the visitors vaunted defense.

Suddenly, the Bulls found themselves in a double-digit hole and after grasping the reality of their situation, fought back behind the play of their big-man duo starting with Carlos Boozers (24 points, six rebounds) quiet effectiveness and after his re-entry into the contest, Noahs relentless play, which yielded a double-double in the first half and significantly cut into the deficit. After being down by as much as 17 points, the Bulls still trailed, but by a much more manageable 55-50.

After the break, which included a performance by rapper Fat Joe, the Bulls continued to whittle away at the Pistons lead, and while Knights scoring exploits persisted, the Bulls eventually tying the contest at 68 apiece midway through the third quarter. The aforementioned post tandem of Boozer and Noah continued their solid output, aided by Luol Deng (16 points, six assists, five rebounds, two blocked shots), who slowly started to come alive offensively.

It remained a back-and-forth affair as the period waned on, as Detroit veteran forwards Tayshaun Prince (13 points) and Jason Maxiell made timely buckets, but the Bulls dominant frontcourt trio of Noah, Boozer and Deng made their respective presences felt to give the visitors a slight edge. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls held a 78-74 advantage.

Noahs dominance on the interior highlighted the beginning of the fourth quarter, as the charismatic center was a one-man wrecking crew literally owning the glass, finishing extremely proficiently and even knocking down his ever-improving outside jumper, prompting his trademark finger guns celebration helping the Bulls seize control of the contest. Boozer, functioning as Noahs sidekick, filled in the gaps offensively, throwing down powerful dunks and hitting mid-range jumpers to give the visitors some breathing room.

While the Pistons valiantly attempted a last-gasp comeback, the Bulls clamped down on the defensive end and continued to execute on offense, ensuring that they sealed the deal. But the night belonged to Noah, who had the best night of his career, cementing, at the very least, his All-Star candidacy.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”