Bernstein: Noah The Difference For Bulls

By Dan Bernstein–

CHICAGO (WSCR) If you’re going to be called an “energy player,” it means three things about you are true.

First, you probably can’t shoot.

Second, you are big enough that merely a high-motor effort around the basket each game is beneficial to your team and disruptive to the opponent. You can fill the stat sheet with rebounds, blocks and put-backs, and do the things that don’t get recorded, like setting hard screens, hustling on defense and winning battles for loose balls.

Third, and most important, you provide emotional energy in a sport where it can matter. You aren’t the beneficiary of the vibe in the arena, but the source.

Joakim Noah played to his description last night, family in the building or not (that whole angle was ridiculous, as we pointed out at the time), and was the most valuable player not named Derrick Rose in the Bulls’ series-tying victory over the Hawks.

I don’t even need to mention how many points or rebounds Noah had, yet, in making the case. The most significant thing he did was defend instinctively and aggressively, and he emerged as the biggest reason why Joe Johnson was unable to replicate his game one performance, when he scored 34 points on 67% shooting.

Tom Thibodeau had Noah moving up quickly to challenge Johnson each time he came around a screen with the ball, cutting off the angle to the basket and dissuading a shot attempt. That accomplished, Noah quickly returned to his man or the other big from which the designated helper had rotated.

(The use of a center moving up from the back-line defense to help cover a guard in screen-roll is widely attributed to Memphis coach Hubie Brown’s defense of the Spurs’ Tony Parker in that action with Tim Duncan, though that was out of a base 2-3 zone and much more actively executed)

Atlanta’s forwards helped out by inexplicably straying back to the perimeter or flattening to the corners, content to settle for jump shots instead of diving immediately to the basket.

Keyed by Noah, the Bulls’ defense held Johnson to 16 points, and the oddly passive Hawks’ frontcourt of Al Horford, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams combined to shoot 26% (9-for-35), as Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer (yes) both handled their responsibilities as well.

There is a misconception of Noah as a defender, since too many fans look at one-on-one matchups instead of team concepts. He’s never been stout against larger or quicker players looking to score off their own moves in the low post – it’s his length, athleticism, ability to cover ground and maximum effort that make him a valuable defensive player when used properly, as he was last night.

His seven offensive rebounds either resulted in put-back points or kept the possession alive. He made seven of eight free throws.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been two years since Noah’s steal/dunk/and-1 against the Celtics’ Paul Pierce became the foundation for an entire promotional campaign, and was the lingering image of his inspired play that garnered him a lucrative contract extension before this season.

“Joakim is big,” Deng said. “He’s the heart of this team.”

For the Bulls to win a title, the heart has to be pumping like that from here on out.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: Noah The Difference For Bulls

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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  • Larry Horse's Arse

    When D!ck Stockton referred to DRose as “David Rose” I had a “Gary from Evanston” moment…because David Rose was the musical director for Bonanza.

    Hope WYC is good today.

    • big time sucker

      you get t he idea that even TNT is considering the bulls second class citicens. i mean, we can’t even get kevin harlan? there is something wrong with that. that’s why we have to make and win the ECF’s. to make the networks do something they don’t want to do. TNT willl for sure welcome a bulls heat ECF’s and probably stick their tougne out at eSPN and ABC as their WCF’s well………..

      i am sure, TNT and ABC and especially ABC and the NBA is in FULL PANIC MODE right now with the lakers being down 2-0. their dream finals is dying a slow death. ABC and ESPN have the WCF’s and if lakers don’t win, i am sure as shootin that ESPN will get the bulk of those games wherein if the lakers win, ABC will get the bulk of those games. additionally the opponent in the WCF’s will either be memphis or OKC, at least OKC has a superstar.

      • Murphfan1138

        You sound like “Captain Conspiracy” Les Grobstein here b.t.s

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      I was curious about how old D!ck Stockton is…..Wiki says born in 1942.
      Because I don’t have SHARK-like infinite knowledge of broadcasting (and SHARK truly does us all a daily service with his info), I was unaware until googling him that D!ck Stockton and Lesley Visser were divorced now (as of last year).
      I’m pretty sure that’s because he kept calling her “Michele Tafoya” in the midst of sex.

      • SPAULDING!

        That was funny L.H.A!

  • Go Cubs!

    Cubs Win! Bulls Win! and the Chicago White Trash lose again. Does it get any better?

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      As a Cub fan I didn’t hate it, but let’s start beating theams that can actually MAKE payroll before we get too excited.

    • bronzo

      I’ll go back to one of our fellow blogger’s commnent’s yesterday …don’t remember who it was..”It’s like the kid with the D making fun of the kid with the D minus.”

      Staying on topic…Noah was a beast last night.

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        It was me, Bronzo ;)

        I guess that in my roughly 30 years of being a Cub fan, this is the first year that I’ve felt they need to “earn” my attention.

        Didn’t attend any Cubs spring training games (first time in 7 spring trainings living here).
        Didn’t attend any Cubs @ Dbacks games last weekend (first year in probably 12 or more that I won’t go to a game at all).

        It’s not even appointment TV for me anymore. I’m sure there are plenty of numbnuts out there willing to pick up my slack, but I guess I need to see something before I invest any time.

      • bronzo

        Thanks Chris…as a Sox fan who almost never misses a game …I can’t watch anymore…I’m enjoying the Bulls …

      • big time sucker

        chris, i have been that way since the 08 playoffs, it’s an odd feeling, it’s a depsressing feeling, but you get more done around the house LOL

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        BTS- I always was slow on the uptake… However, having gone back to school this year, my indifferent attitude regarding the Cub has done wonders for my grades.
        The only problem is that I keep missing live Bulls games, and in order to watch the DVR, I have to not only stay up late, but also avoid the steady stream of texts from back home as well, making it doubly tough.

      • mad as hell fan...

        People do realize that Go Cubs is a baiting sox fan don’t you?

        Noah was the difference last night , Bulls are nearly impossible to beat with that kind of an effort out of him. Execution was nearly flawless all the way around.

        Cleveland might be this year’s Padres. I don’t think Cleveland will sustain this or win 90 games, but I do think that they are formidable. They will come down to earth a bit though throughout the summer. The Sox will get better, too much talent not too. With the Tigers and Twins both struggling nearly as badly there is no need to panic the first week of May. The weather will get warm and the Sox bats will get hot and start punishing some people at the Cell. If the Twins or the Tigers were the ones who were 10.5 games up by now I would say goodnight, but that isn’t the case. No one should be fired.

        Cubs aren’t as bad as people thought they were going to be. If Wells/Cashner didn’t get hurt they would at least be a couple of games better right now. Dempster/Russell/Coleman have been a disaster to this point and yet the team is only a couple games under .500. Dempster pitched real well the other night, and they are soon to get back Wells and Cashner. Cubs bullpen so far has been terrific, and some guys who are having slow starts offensively will get it going as the weather starts getting warmer as well.

        Just an opinion of a fan of both teams.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Totally off the subject (which I think is Noah’s grindyness), can you frickin’ believe that the SEALs are in trouble for using “Geronimo” as the code name???
    I was so totally p!ssed off when I saw that in the news.

    • bronzo

      They are not in trouble the “Native Americans” were offended by the SEALS using Geronimo as the mission name….Please give me break…How PC canwe be for goodness sake.

    • Denver Deadite

      The sky is blue.

      And as I type that, somebody somewhere just got offended.

      • Spoon

        As a color blind american, I am offended by your assumption that we all see a blue sky. Also, white called and said your discriminating against minorities.

  • big time sucker

    how are they in trouble? like define trouble?

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      The actual team of SEALs are not being criticized, but today the US Senate Indiana Affairs (and why, pray tell, are they not the “Native American Affairs”) Commitee is investigating the DODs use of the code-name in response from complaints from various Tribes in the past several days.

      Gee, we must have a big surplus in the Treasury if they are d!cking around with this!!!

  • big time sucker

    well the problem with that thought and i know it was in sarcasm chris is, the dodgers can’t make payroll because payroll is too high, if the marlins can’t make payroll and the cubs can’t beat them, that’s a problem,
    if wrigley attendance dwindles further and further, will the cubs be able to make payroll? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm i don’t think they are in that kind of trouble yet

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      That’s almost worse, BTS… you gave me a good thought though.

      I know we criticize about low payroll in some markets, but they get what they can afford, perhaps save a little more than they should, but living within their modest means while crying poverty. Sounds like my neighbor.

      Then there’s the guy that is either a chronic overspender, or simply someone that didn’t foresee economic correction or downturn and got his condo foreclosed. The McCourts are the latter, and it’s killing that franchise.

  • Cameltoe Rancher

    OK- let’s try that again, this time without the blog gestapo fat fingers zapping my posts.

    1) ‘Dyk’ Stockton = AWFUL. How is this man still employed as an announcer?

    2) Berstein’s blog has helped me better understand the nuts and bolts of NBA defense and why the BUlls are good- for that I thank you DAn!

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      totally agree with you, Dan has really stepped-up the intensity of his NBA analysis now that DaBoo matter

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        Today with Goff as his co-host, the NBAIQ is going to be sky-high.

        That being said, some callers are bound to get RAILED.

  • E B F

    What ever happened to full court pressure after made shots and free throws? The Bulls didn’t do it all season long so I thought they were waiting for the playoffs to unleash the heat. They have the long-armed players to pull it off in Noah, Brewer, Deng, Gibson, Asik, and Thomas, while Rose and Watson have the quickness to create problems for teams trying to inbound the ball. Is pressuring the ball on the end-line not part of Thibs defensive philosophy?

  • big time sucker

    thibs doesn’t believe in it. plain and simple he believes in 5 tethered together in a half court sense. remember, he learned under j van gundy who believed in that, the knicks in the 90’s one of the best defensive teams in the league never trapped or pressed. the celtics never trapped or pressed when thibs was there either. it’s purely philosophical. think of this, if you pressure full court and they get loose, you give up a layup

  • Spoon

    These NBA playoffs have me watching basketball. My girlfriend is less than thrilled. I have no idea what I’m really watching, but it’s enjoyable as all hell.

    • bronzo

      Just like the old saying Spoon…. “sit back relax and enjoy the ride”

  • Jon

    I’m as big of Thibbs fan as there is, but something really ticked me off last night. Last night, in the closing seconds, Atlanta emptied their bench. The Bulls did not. Rose had to hoist one last shot, and almost got taken out around the feet by Teague(punk move on his part). Seriously, why whould you not pull your starters? We have to only go back one game to see the pointless injuries that can occur with seconds remaining in the game.

    • Jon

      Here is the play I am talking about

      One day I will be smart and learn how to embed videos here

      • Jon

        hahah! It does it automatic, full of win today!


    Game 2 was a far cry from Game 1 in the sense that the Bulls held the Hawks to just 33.8% field goal shooting, holding Joe Johnson & Jamal Crawford to a combined 27 points & outrebounding Atlanta 58-39. Joakim Noah also brought plenty of energy, and I think he was one of the stars in the Bulls’ 86-73 Game 2 win to even the series at a game apiece. I’ll be very interested to see if the defense continues to rise to the occasion down in Atlanta for Games 3 & 4 tomorrow & Sunday respectively, let alone what kind of crowd will be in attendance at Philips Arena. In the first series vs. the Pacers in Indianapolis, I could’ve sworn there were quite a few Bulls’ cheers as there were Pacers during the two games down there in Round 1. I’ll be interested to find out if Bulls’ fans outcheer the ones for the Hawks the next couple of games in an arena that’s not the home court advantage the Bulls have at United Center.

    • big time sucker

      there is roughly 150 to 200 seats still available for friday night. probably about 200-300 for sunday. not good for a playoff series, but for an atlanta team


      usually that number would be about 1500 to 2000 so they are making progress out in atlanta, the city without a pulse

  • puddin' head

    could posters please stop “theBoo” thing it just seems silly and weak


    Poor Tyler,

    They could have given him a better “read out loud” transcript of the story.

    Oh, man.

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