Joakim Noah’s triple-double leads Bulls to easy win against Knicks
CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls were open all over the floor, so Joakim Noah kept collecting assists. Jumpers for Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich. A dunk for Taj Gibson, another jumper for Butler, and on and on it went.
The All-Star center put on quite a show.
Noah had 14 assists in his fifth career triple-double, leading the streaking Bulls to a 109-90 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday.
“It’s really all my teammates,” he said. “I think we’re getting better every game.”
Noah also had 13 points and 12 rebounds in his second triple-double of the season, but it was his deft passing that really stood out. It was the most assists by an NBA center since at least the 1985-86 season and a franchise record for his position.
“What can you say? He is playing MVP basketball,” Gibson said. “He is doing everything in all facets of the game.”
Chicago had seven players score in double figures and set a franchise record by committing only three turnovers in its ninth win in the last 10 games. The Bulls also reached 100 points for the fourth consecutive game for the first time since Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2010.
D.J. Augustin had 21 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter as Chicago (33-26) improved to 21-8 since Jan. 1 and a season-high seven games above .500 overall. Butler scored 19 points and Carlos Boozer had 14.
“We’ve hit a stretch where we have guys that are healthy playing that I think they know what to expect from each other,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think they’re playing to their strengths.”
While the Bulls are galloping through the weak Eastern Conference, the Knicks are floundering.
Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points and Tyson Chandler had 22 rebounds, but New York dropped its sixth consecutive game. The Knicks (21-39) are just 6-16 since Jan. 14.
“It’s embarrassing,” Anthony said. “It’s frustrating and it’s embarrassing.”
Swingman Iman Shumpert had three points on 1-for-6 shooting in his return to the lineup. He missed five games after he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during New York’s 98-91 victory over New Orleans on Feb. 19.
Noah rolled his right ankle at the beginning of the second half and got it re-taped before coming back in at the start of the fourth quarter. He heard more chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” when he went 1 for 2 at the line to make it 89-70 with 9:26 to go.
There were more loud cheers when Jimmer Fredette checked in with 3:08 left after joining the Bulls earlier in the day. The sharp-shooting guard drilled a long jumper on his first shot, making it 107-83 with 2:16 remaining.
Fredette, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, was bought out by Sacramento on Thursday and cleared waivers on Saturday. His contract with the Bulls covers the rest of the season.
“It was great. I mean, these guys did a great job the whole game and got a big lead and I was able to get into the game,” Fredette said.
Led by Noah, the Bulls jumped all over the Knicks right at the start. He capped Chicago’s opening 16-1 run with a driving layup and rebound tip-in.
It just kept getting worse for New York, which shot 32 percent from the field in the first quarter. Butler scored 10 points and also found Gibson for a big dunk as Chicago jumped to a 37-16 lead, setting a season high for points for the opening period.
“They came out with more energy than we did, took advantage of us,” Chandler said. “On the defensive end, backdoor cuts that pretty much changed the game.”
The lead grew to 25 early in the second before Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire started to heat up. Anthony made a nice pass to Stoudemire for a reverse layup that got New York within nine with 3:33 to go.
Anthony drove the baseline for a smooth jam, but Noah found Butler for a jumper that lifted Chicago to a 59-48 halftime lead. Noah had 11 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds at the break.
“You can’t come on the road and start like that and expect to win,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.
*Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Jeff Haynes