Bulls

Bulls: Noah easygoing about Cardale Jones, interaction with fan

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Bulls: Noah easygoing about Cardale Jones, interaction with fan

Joakim Noah seemed mightily amused at the small social media firestorm created by separate apparent actions during Game 2 of the Bulls-Cavaliers series at Quicken Loans Arena.

First, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones issued a couple threatening tweets at Noah last night, after Jones and his teammates were introduced to the crowd, roundly cheered for winning the national title in January.

Noah apparently mouthed to or at Jones, “You ain’t in the S.E.C.,” a nod to Noah’s University of Florida ties. When Jones was made aware of Noah’s words, he unleashed on twitter. 

Noah, never one to tweak an opponent, especially one with Cleveland ties, smiled his way out of things Thursday, saying he didn’t start anything.

[SHOP: Buy a Joakim Noah jersey]

“I heard about it this morning,” Noah said. “I didn't know who he was until this morning. I wish him nothing but the best. I like Urban Meyer, I guess?”

Meyer is currently the head coach at Ohio State and was the national-title winning coach at Florida when Noah helped lead the basketball team to back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.

When asked if he made a comment about the SEC, Noah said no — with a smile.

“I didn’t even know who he was until this morning,” he said. “I wish him nothing but the best.”

The other incident is slightly more serious, because it concerns a fan who apparently spat on Noah as he was walking off the floor and to the locker room with his teammates.

[MORE: Why the Bulls interior help defense must improve]

From a video, it appeared Noah swiped his arm in defense at the fan’s apparent action, but declined to discuss in detail with media — and didn’t want to say if NBA security contacted him about the incident.

“I don't want to talk about that. It's unnecessary,” he said.

When pressed about the interaction with the fan, Noah smiled again and said, “I was just saying hello.”

Noah’s light mood could be created by his struggles on offense, highlighted by scoring just four points in two games against the Cavaliers. He missed a wide-open layup in Game 1, and has shockingly gone 1-14 from the free-throw line in the postseason.

“It's disappointing,” Noah said. “I've just gotta keep working and make them tomorrow.”

Tom Thibodeau appears steadfast in his belief Noah’s stretch is just an anomaly, considering he’s a 71.6 percent free-throw shooter for his career (60 percent this season).

[RELATED: SEC vs. B1G -- Noah vs. Cardale Jones]

“Right now he’s going through a rough period with his free throw, but it will come around,” Thibodeau said. “Sometimes you just have to work your way through it. Last year, he shot his free throws great and he’ll find his rhythm, he’ll get back to it.’’

He denied his struggles at the line or elsewhere are mental, and didn’t want to hear anything about lacking confidence.

Noah shrugged off any notions of losing his offensive feel, which was never the prettiest at its height, anyways.

“Yeah, I'm confident,” he said.

Thibodeau isn’t ready to pull Noah from the lineup at this point, but the longer he goes while struggling with his game and ailing body, the questions will keep coming—especially if Thibodeau keeps Nikola Mirotic on the bench.

“No, not right now,” said Thibodeau when asked about benching Noah for Taj Gibson. “I mean also look at when Jo was on the floor we were a plus, so you gotta look at a lot of things. We’ll see how it unfolds, but Jo brings a lot to our team.’’

Noah was actually a minus-11 in the Bulls’ 106-91 Game 2 loss, and upon hearing his coach’s defense of him for the second straight day, Noah was again jovial.

“Thanks, Thibs,” he said.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 93-92 loss to Toronto.

0:45 - Reaction to losing another close game

2:00 - Kendall Gill stops by to give Matt Peck a hard time about Derrick Rose

3:30 - On Wendell Carter Jr and wanting more

4:45 - Viewer comment on Bulls shooting 46 three-point attempts

7:20 - Concern over Lauri Markkanen

8:10 - Viewer comment still believing in Lauri

9:40 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford

12:10 - Viewer comment on running more pick n roll w Zach and Lauri

15:35 - Viewer question on Otto Porter and Hutchison

16:30 - Viewer trade idea: Kevin Love for Markkanen

17:15 - Any comfort in coming close to beating two of the top teams in the East?

20:30 - Viewer comment on losing games

23:00 - Viewer comment on Coby should start

24:05 - Viewer comment pandering to John Sabine

24:40 - Sabine shares his weird dream that involves Jim Boylen

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

Monday night, 14,775 fans attended the Bulls' latest in a line of hard-fought defeats: a 93-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors. That's the smallest reported crowd at the United Center for a Bulls game since Dec. 16, 2004.

For stretches, though, it felt like a full house. 

"The UC was great tonight, the fans were awesome," Denzel Valentine said.

The starters carried the team, to start: Of the Bulls' 50 first-half points, 46 were scored by Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. But it wasn't the usual suspects that pushed the Chicago faithful's decibel count to levels unheard of in the earlygoing of this season.

Thank Valentine and Daniel Gafford, in large part, for that. With the Bulls trailing 61-58 at the 4:45 mark of the third, Jim Boylen turned to a bench-dominated unit of Coby White, Valentine, Thad Young, Gafford and LaVine to spark his group. It was a potential tipping point in the game: The Raptors were in the midst of an 11-3 run and the Bulls' offense was fizzling. White, Valentine, Young and Gafford had four points between them upon entry.

With that move, the fates tilted towards the home side. For a time.

"It was great minutes from them," Satoransky said of Valentine and Gafford after the game. "I think [Denzel] is feeling more himself right now. And DG will always bring that energy. He's one of the most athletic guys I've ever seen, his energy... will always refresh our game."

It certainly did in this one. Gafford blocked three shots and notched 10 points over the game's final quarter-and-a-half. Valentine scored all 13 of his points for the night after that juncture in the third, shooting 5-for-9 from the floor and 3-for-7 from 3-point range. The Bulls finished the night 12-for-46 from 3-point land.

"Just energy," Valentine said, of what that bench unit brought. "We started playing defense. It started on the defensive end, started in transition, getting rebounds. Played with a little bit more life. Playing with each other too. We were moving the ball together."

"We go in, we produce with the minutes that we get," Gafford said. And on what the fans gave back: "There was definitely energy. I was blocking shots, Denzel was knocking down shots, we were getting stops on defense. We were doing everything we needed to do to win the game, and the crowd helped us do that."

Of course, they didn't do it alone. In spite of not scoring, White played a solid defensive game and finished the night with eight rebounds and five assists. Young and Kris Dunn each hit crucial 3-pointers in the third. But watching Valentine and Gafford ignite the home crowd made it even more surreal that neither of them cracked the regular rotation until mid-to-late November.

"We got a bond," Gafford said. "He finds me when I'm open, and I find him when he's open... We just go out and play basketball."

That strategy helped the Bulls build an 85-77 lead with eight minutes left in the game, but the team's good fortunes faded fast from there. After an alley-oop from Valentine to Gafford gave them their 84th and 85th points of the night, the Bulls didn't score for the next five-and-a-half minutes of game action. The Raptors surged down the stretch. The Bulls scrapped, but ultimately faltered when it mattered most.

Both Gafford and Valentine found themselves in the Bulls' closing lineup — Valentine by way of the hot-hand, Gafford in Carter's stead after he fouled out with just under four minutes remaining. A Valentine transition layup, Markkanen 3-pointer and Gafford layup represented the Bulls' only points of the final eight minutes.

"We gotta learn how to put it away. If we can't at the end of the third quarter, we gotta put it away at the beginning of the fourth," Gafford said. "We just gotta learn how to put it away, seal the deal." 

But, as a team, they didn't. And thus, the bottom line doesn't change. The Bulls won a(nother) moral victory or two tonight, but when the final points were tallied, they were on the short end. That's the only stat that matters, especially to those 14,775 that stood behind their team, in person, tonight.

"It’s disappointing when we don’t win games. It’s disappointing when we don’t win home games," Boylen, who has presided over only 10 home victories in his tenure, said. "Nobody is running from that."

"No excuses, nobody cares, we just gotta come out and play hard and learn from our mistakes," Valentine said. "It's tough, because we lose the last three and we were up in the fourth [quarter], I think, in all of those games. So it's tough. But hopefully at some point we'll figure it out."

Gafford and Valentine provided a jolt, but because of the result, they're only would-be heroes — their combined performance amounts to nothing more than an all-too-familiar silver lining. In some ways, that stings even more.

"That's why this game is so frustrating," Satoransky said. "Because I know we were there. Fans were engaged and I think we played very well, and we missed a lot of shots. You know, that always hurts."

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