Noah leads the way again late

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
11:22
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Tony Snell played only two minutes in Wednesday night's 105-94 win over the Detroit Pistons, but he smiled from ear to ear as he got dressed in front of his locker while recounting his most important play of the night.

It came with 5:47 remaining right after a timeout was called and his team had finally seized control. That's when Joakim Noah, the player who was on the way to his second triple-double in three games, happily raced toward Snell for a celebratory do-over.

[+] EnlargeJoakim Noah
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioJoakim Noah earned his second triple-double in three games, and even got the chest bump he wanted from teammate Tony Snell.
Toward the end of last Friday night's comeback win over the Dallas Mavericks, the same situation presented itself. Noah came bounding over to Snell in hopes the rookie would meet him in the air for a chest bump. Only as Noah raced over, Snell wanted no part of the exchange. He turned as Noah jumped in the air and left the All-Star center hanging. Noah was not happy about it and turned in disgust. The missed connection caught the eye of plenty of fans on Twitter and gained national exposure as part of the "SportsCenter" highlight package that night.

"People were like, 'Why didn't you give him the chest bump?'" Snell said Wednesday night. "Some of my old college teammates, they know why, because I don't do stuff like that. Some people were like, 'Why did you get so mad with the chest bump?' So I tried to keep him happy, tried to do the chest bump."

This time there was no doubt in Snell's mind what was going to happen. As Noah made his way toward him, Snell knew exactly what to do.

"I saw him coming," Snell said. "He pointed at me and was like, 'OK, chest bump.'"

Noah, who took to Twitter last Saturday to say he loved the Bulls' rookies and that they would work on their celebrations, laughed while recounting the latest chest bump with Snell.

"I was happy," Noah said. "[The last one] was bad. I'm happy he worked on it and it worked out well."

The entire episode symbolized the Bulls' night. After struggling to find a rhythm throughout the first three quarters, Noah and his teammates clicked in the final 12 minutes, outscoring the Pistons by 10. They never panicked during stretches of poor play -- a hallmark of coach Tom Thibodeau's team.

"I think that's one of our strengths, is our will," Noah said. "I think there's always adversity in a game. Things go your way, things don't go your way. Frustration sometimes sets in. It's all about how you handle those things. And I think that we're one of the better teams when it comes to that."

Noah continues to prove on a nightly basis that while his team's will is strong, his own personal will may be stronger than all. He sets the tone the rest of his teammates follow, and remains confident despite a slow start -- as he did during the first three quarters Wednesday.

"He means the most to this team," Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said. "The guy, he's our leader, he does so many things well offensively and defensively. So a triple-double -- as we said, that's something light for him. We expect that from him."

Noah is trying to take his recent play, the best of his career, in stride. He is proud of what his team has accomplished, but he knows things can change quickly. To that point, he left The Palace of Auburn Hills wearing a protective brace on his thumb, although he said he didn't think the injury was serious.

"It feels good," he said of the accolades he has been receiving. "It feels good, but ... just as much as people can put you on a pedestal and say, 'Oh man, you're doing great,' in a week, just like that, it can go away. So I don't take that for granted and I just try to focus on what's important. Because if you focus on that, on the praise, I think it just makes things harder."

The good news for Noah in the short term is Snell learned from his mistake and got better. It's the mark of what the Bulls, as a group, have been doing all season.

"We finally redeemed ourselves," Snell said. "Just give him the chest bump and keep it going."

The rookie was relieved.

"Yeah, it's about time," he said. "So people can stop messing with me for the chest-bumping thing."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.9 3.3 1.6 39.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.7
AssistsD. Rose 5.1
StealsJ. Butler 1.6
BlocksP. Gasol 2.0