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Friday, April 9, 2010
Noah's block: Season saver?

By Nick Friedell

The Chicago Bulls tried to give Thursday night's game away, but Joakim Noah wouldn't let them.

The lanky center made sure of that by making several crucial plays down the stretch that helped the Bulls scrape out a 109-108 win over the LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers.
Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah had 17 points and 15 rebounds in the Bulls' 109-108 victory over the Cavaliers on Thursday.

A win they desperately had to have. Most importantly, a win that gave Noah and the Bulls full control over their own destiny. If they win out, they will be in the playoffs. And if they make the playoffs, they owe a huge thank you to the crazy-haired center.

"It just feels good to win," an exhausted looking Noah said. "It just feels good to win right now. It was a really important win. The basketball gods were with us tonight. [Cleveland] got a lot of opportunities, a lot of shots. They didn't hit their last shots and things just went our way."

Cleveland didn't hit its last shot because Noah was there to stuff it away.

With the Bulls hanging on to a one-point lead, Cleveland guard Jamario Moon grabbed a rebound off an Anderson Varejao miss and appeared to have an opportunity to win the game for the Cavs with a follow lay in.

Noah wasn't having it though.

He swooped in out of seemingly nowhere and swatted away the ball from Moon. He saved the Bulls season in the process.

"[Moon] has such quick bounce, and he was up right by the rim, I think it was just like an instinct play almost," Noah said. "Just trying to get the ball out of his hands because he could have just so easily caught and just laid the ball in. I just got my hand on it and just got it out of the way."

In a flash, Noah made sure that the Bulls' playoff dreams lived another day.

"To be honest, I don't remember all that," he said. "I just remember [Moon] up in the air with the ball in his hands. I'm just happy I got a piece of it."

The thing about Noah's game, and the reason the Bulls missed him so badly when he was out with plantar fasciitis, is that his activity allows him be in position to make plays like that. He had 17 points [including one clutch jumper with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter] and 15 rebounds on the night, but he also made the types of plays that you may not always see in the box score.

"When you have length in there, it's going to make things different," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "And Jo, I thought, made a couple nice offensive plays for us. The tip in [with 1:21 left in the fourth], that big shot at the elbow there. Give him credit. He's been working on it. He works hard at it. And he made some big plays for us."

Once again though, Noah's biggest gift was the energy he infused into the game. There's no debating that the Bulls are simply a different team when he's on the floor -- a much better one.

Noah is the heart and soul of the Bulls and he proved that once again on Thursday night when his team needed to win a game the most.

"We can't have any letdowns" he said. "We just have to keep fighting. A lot of things are going our way and we just have to take advantage of it."