Joakim Noah recorded his second playoff double-double of the season tonight.
With injuries and ailments afflicting this team like no other, and still no D-Rose, someone had to come through for the Bulls in Game 7 tonight. It turns out that the Bulls would get double the boost, as both Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli had one of their best games in Bulls uniforms.
The Bulls would walk out of the Barclay's Center with the 99-93 victory to take the first-round series from the Brooklyn Nets 4-3. And they did so behind the leadership of Noah and the sharp shooting of Belinelli.
Noah who has been playing with a tremendous amount of pain in his foot over the last couple of months, was the Bulls' star Saturday night. He finished the game with 24 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks, along with two assists and a steal.
Noah was very aggressive on offense as he asserted himself in the paint, on the boards and carried the Bulls on his back. On defense Noah seemed to jump out of the arena at times to grab rebounds when necessary.
It's hard to imagine how much pain Noah is in after playing 41 minutes.
As for Belinelli, he had the hot hand. He had 24 points to go with 6 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. Belinelli could not be stopped, as he shot 8-for-14 from the field, 3-for-6 from three-point range and always seemed to be open at the right time.
Belinelli came through when his team needed him the most. His performance tonight is significant because the only other guard who has been productive recently is Nate Robinson. The Brooklyn Nets gave a solid effort, but they just did not have an answer for Noah or Belinelli.
This was a statement game for the Bulls Saturday evening. They proved that they can win a playoff series without Derrick Rose (but would, of course, rather have him on the court). They also proved that they can overcome adversity and that other players can step up when called upon.
While I don't expect the Bulls to get past the Miami Heat this year, I'm sure LeBron and company are taking this Bulls team seriously. Hopefully Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich can get healthy in time for second-round opener against Miami.
The Bulls will need all of the help they can get against the Eastern Conference's best team.