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Bulls’ defense rests on Noah’s offense

(MCT) — It seemed fitting Joakim Noah scored 23 points in the Bulls’ season-opening victory over the Kings because he fielded questions about his offensive game as if he were Michael Jordan.

Noah, whose offensive game always has been better than he has been given credit for, chuckled when asked if could continue his team-high performances.

“Probably not,” Noah said.

Nevertheless, Noah and Carlos Boozer combined for 41 points on just 25 shots, including half of the Bulls’ 24-point, fourth-quarter output. Their continued chemistry, particularly in finding each other with high-low passes, finally should put to rest the misperception they can’t co-exist efficiently on offense.

“I don’t know where that started,” Boozer said. “Our first season together, we both missed a ton of time with injuries. Last year, we played well together. We do a great job of doing the high-low action. It’s like anything else: The more we play with each other, the more comfortable we are with each other. Joakim and I have great chemistry together.”

Noah, who helped ice the victory by sinking four of his career-high-tying 11 made free throws in the final 24.5 seconds, concurred.

“We’ve been playing together for awhile now, and I kind of know where he wants the ball. He knows where I want the ball,” Noah said. “We’re comfortable in Thibs’ offense. It’s good.”

Boozer made several critical plays down the stretch, sinking a jumper, assisting Luol Deng on a dunk and finishing a three-point play off his own offensive rebound. Despite playing 40 minutes, Noah consistently ran the floor to get deep post position, opening space for cutters.

“Both of our bigs, if we play through them in the post and you cut and you’re open, you get the ball,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That’s why it’s so important to play through those guys.”

Thibodeau consistently praised Noah’s conditioning throughout training camp, and the center said he felt great following Thursday’s practice.

“He has been healthy, which is a big plus,” Thibodeau said. “He’s practicing a lot better this year too. He’s putting a lot more time into film. He’s trying to improve every day. He has great vision and decision-making ability.”

Those abilities are why Noah always has been overlooked as an offensive player. Whenever Derrick Rose got double-teamed in the past, Noah served as the release point in the high post, able to catch the pass, turn, size up the defense and consistently make the right reads.

Though Noah’s jumper isn’t aesthetically pleasing, it’s typically reliable to 17 feet.

“I remember when I was in Boston, I watched him shoot pregame and saw him make consecutive shots,” Thibodeau said. “The first time, you’re thinking, ‘OK, aberration.’ Then you’re watching him as he’s moving around and you see it’s not. The ending of his shot is good. He has touch.”

Including a humorous one when asked about his offensive exploits.

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