CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah never forgets.
That's why it should come as no surprise that Noah dominated the Philadelphia 76ers in the Chicago Bulls' 93-82 victory Thursday with 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocks for his third career triple-double.
Noah remembers the way the Philadelphia crowd cheered when he rolled his ankle badly in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season. After he delivered perhaps his best game as a pro, there is joy for Noah in Philadelphia's pain.
"That was probably one of my biggest motivations," Noah said. "Just rehabbing my ankle. And I really felt before the playoffs started last year, I really felt like we were in a position to win the championship. Derrick [Rose] went down and it was very hard on the team, and then [my] getting injured, and then the fans, the way they reacted, I used that as motivation."
The Bulls swept the Sixers in their season series 3-0 after losing to them in the playoffs last season, and Noah was a big contributor. He averaged 18.7 points and 13.7 rebounds per game in the Bulls' three wins over the Sixers.
"He's got a great motor," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "He plays every play. He doesn't have to take a play off, which is a tremendous quality to have, and even if he's out on the floor, he's going to the boards. And then he has the speed and quickness to be able to get back. It's not like he compromises you. He gets himself back, and then he's a tremendous pick-and-roll defender. This guy is a tremendous player. He's worked on his body, he's bigger, he's stronger and, make no bones about it, he wants to beat us after what happened in the playoffs last year. He rolled his ankle, and it was a tough finish for him. So when he sees us, he's been very, very good all season long."
Noah's game is even more impressive when considering that he did it while still dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
"He was spectacular," said coach Tom Thibodeau, whose Bulls had lost seven of 10 going into Thursday's game. "There was such a big effort from him. His will from the start of the game until the end was just incredible."
Noah got plenty of help from frontcourt mate Carlos Boozer, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds.
"He was amazing, man," Boozer said. "Joakim put up a legendary night. I've never played with a player with them kind of stats before. And the serious thing about it [is] we needed every one of them. Every rebound, every basket, every free throw, every block, every assist, he was amazing tonight, man."
The Bulls salvaged a win in the last game of a trying month for the Bulls, who went 5-8 in February, just the second losing month under Thibodeau.
"I think it's very important," Noah said of the win. "We just got to stay focused. I think that if we play with the right mindset and we play for one another, and we play to our capabilities, we can make some noise. But it's going to take a lot of work and there's going to be a lot of adversity and everybody knows once the playoffs come, it's not easy, so we just got to keep fighting and keep improving because we're not playing our best basketball right now."