Video Playbook: Joakim Noah, Clutchiness
The Bulls missed out on a chance to finish the Nets at home in Game 6, and will now have to face a Game 7 in Brooklyn. Although they came up just short last night, they were the recipients of a sparkling and driven performance by Joakim Noah
. He finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks and a steal in 43 minutes. Not bad for a guy struggling with plantar fasciitis. Although they weren’t quite enough, Noah made three huge plays down the stretch, ensuring that the game wasn’t decided until the final play.
In this first possession the Bulls trailed by two with a minute left, desperately needing a stop. The Nets run a side pick-and-roll with Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche. Johnson turns the corner easily and Carlos Boozer has to follow all the way across the lane to keep him from getting to the rim.
Boozer is now way out of position and as Johnson swings the ball back to Blatche, Noah is left to defend both him and Brook Lopez, who is hovering on the baseline.
Boozer takes his sweet time recovering to Lopez, and for almost four full seconds Noah gives Blatche just enough pause to hold off on shooting, while simultaneously cutting off any passing lane to Lopez. As Boozer gets back into position Noah switches out onto Blatche, keeping his feet on a pump fake.
The end result is a forced jumper up against the shot clock which Noah blocks easily:
A few seconds later the Bulls find themselves with the ball, down three. Their set begins with Marco Belinelli dribbling at the top of the key as Noah sets a pin-down screen for Nate Robinson on the wing.
Lopez comes way out to keep Robinson from turning the corner. Noah rolls down into the empty space on the right block, receiving the pass from Robinson as Blatche rotates over onto him. Because of the Bulls’ spacing there’s no one left to rotate onto Nazr Mohammed who makes a clean dive to the rim, receiving a beautiful wrap-around bounce pass from Noah.
Here’s the play in real time:
After a pair of free throws by Blatche and a missed three-pointer by Belinelli, the Bulls are still down three with just 6.3 seconds left. Any hope of stealing the games rests on being able to create a turnover off the inbounds play. Noah is ostensibly guarding the inbounder, but he actually positions himself off to the side, facing the court. As the ball goes in to Deron Williams, Noah sneaks up behind him along the baseline and reaches in for the tie-up.
Although Noah gets his hands on the jump-ball, the tap falls to Johnson and the comeback attempt falls short. The Bulls still have a chance to win this series, but if they don’t it won’t be because Joakim Noah couldn’t make plays when it mattered most.