Lucas an unlikely catalyst in Bulls' win

March, 15, 2012
3/15/12
1:12
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah sat inside of his locker beaming like a proud parent after Wednesday night's 106-102 win over the Miami Heat.

He wasn't surprised with how well John Lucas III played. He was inspired.

[+] EnlargeJohn Lucas
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireJohn Lucas' fearless play was contagious on Wednesday.

"Lukey!" Noah explained. "I'm proud of Lukey, man. That's my son. So I'm proud of my son."

In place of Derrick Rose, who sat out the game because of a groin injury, and C.J. Watson, who was hobbled most of the night because of an ankle injury, the seldom-used point guard scored 24 points and helped give the Bulls the confidence they needed against the big, bad Heat.

Lucas’ play was a boost Noah and his teammates knew they could get from the smallest man on the team.

"I was proud of my son tonight," Noah said. "He came out with a lot of energy and I just like his style out there; he was tough from the start and it got us all going. It wasn't just his scoring. His swag out there was mean and I liked it."

While the rest of the country may have been surprised that Lucas led the Bulls' offensive charge most of the night, no one in the Bulls' locker room seemed stunned.

"That's how he plays all the time," Watson said. "He's instant offense as everyone can see and he's not shy about it. That's what we expect from him and that's what he goes out and does every night."

That's the way Lucas explained it as well. On a team full of confident men, Lucas always plays with the type of swagger usually reserved for Rose and other superstars of his ilk. He never doubted the fact that when he got his opportunity, he would make the most of it.

It's that never-give-in attitude that his teammates respect most.

"We love him," Bulls forward Luol Deng. "He's older than us, but just a great guy. We all love him and we want to see him do well. He's always on the bench cheering everyone on and working hard. When it's his turn, we've got to make sure we let him know that we appreciate it."

Lucas knows and appreciates that. When Noah was interviewed after the game to a roaring United Center crowd, he specifically called out Lucas for the way he played. Lucas responded by smiling and blowing kisses into the crowd.

"We just have guys who flat-out work hard," Lucas said. "Come to practice every day and when they're number's called, step up. When you have 1-14 that does that and know their role; nobody's stepping outside their role ... they're all playing their game. And everybody gets along; we're like a family, we're like a brotherhood. So when you have something like that, when one brother goes down, you've got their back."

Lucas had everyone's back on Wednesday night, and his teammates love him for it.

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
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5