Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/12/12
PHILADELPHIA -- Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said there was "no question" he had extra motivation Wednesday night, when his team faced the Philadelphia 76ers. The Philadelphia crowd cheered when Noah sprained an ankle in Game 3 of the teams' first-round playoff series last spring, an injury that prevented him from playing the rest of the series. That, coupled with a knee injury suffered two games earlier by star guard Derrick Rose, allowed the Sixers to pull the upset. On Wednesday, Noah exacted his revenge, scoring 21 points to lead the Bulls to a 96-89 victory. He also had seven rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots. Luol Deng added 19 points -- 10 in the fourth quarter -- as well as 12 rebounds for the Bulls (12-9), who won for the fourth time in five games. Deng said it was "just another game," despite the result of last year's series, and the fact that the Bulls, who lost to the Clippers on Tuesday night in Chicago, didn't arrive in Philadelphia until Wednesday at 4 a.m. It was much, much more to Noah. "I've been thinking about this all summer," he said. "I just couldn't wait to get back here. I felt when I went down last year, people cheering and stuff, that was real disrespectful. It definitely motivated me to work even harder during the summer." Marco Belinelli added 16 points and Nate Robinson 14 for Chicago, which continues to be without Rose. The Bulls' other starting guard, Rip Hamilton, has missed the last six games with a foot injury, and Kirk Hinrich was unavailable Wednesday because of a bad knee. The Bulls nonetheless went on an 11-3 run late in the final period to take command. Noah said back-to-back games are "no joke." "But we fought hard," he said, "and a lot of guys stepped up." Jrue Holiday had 26 points and nine assists for the Sixers (12-10), who lost for the second time in three games. Evan Turner added 16 points, and Thaddeus Young had 13 points and nine rebounds. Jimmy Butler's 3-pointer with 4:31 left put Chicago ahead to stay at 82-80. Deng added two free throws after a Sixers turnover, and rookie guard Marquis Teague added a layup with 3:32 remaining to make it 86-80. After a 3-pointer by Philadelphia's Jason Richardson, baskets by Deng and Noah pushed the Chicago lead to 90-83 with 1:19 to play. The Sixers were never close than five after that. "I thought we got a little tired," coach Doug Collins said, even though the Sixers did not play Tuesday. "I thought fatigue was a factor." Holiday scored 16 points in the first half, half of those coming when the Sixers broke out to a 24-19 lead late in the opening quarter. The Bulls responded with a 15-4 run to go up 34-28 in the second period, but by halftime the Sixers had reclaimed the lead, at 44-41. Noah had 10 points in the half for the Bulls, who moved to a 51-49 edge early in the third quarter. The Sixers then scored 11 of the game's next 13 points, four of those by Holiday, to go up 60-53 with 5:13 left in the period. But Chicago again bounced back, and Noah's three-point play with 22.6 seconds left in the quarter gave the Bulls a 69-66 lead. The Sixers went back on top early in the fourth quarter, the last time at 80-79 on Holiday's jumper with 5:31 remaining. But Butler made his 3-pointer a minute later, giving Chicago the lead for good. NOTES: Robinson started at guard in place of Hinrich, who was inactive after injuring his left knee during Tuesday's loss to the Clippers. ... Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau on the Sixers' play without center Andrew Bynum, who has yet to play this season because of sore knees: "Philly has a very well-balanced team. They share the ball. They play hard defensively. They give themselves a chance to win every night." ... Collins said before the game he was "very sad" when Rose injured his knee in Game One of last year's playoff series between the two teams. "Derrick Rose is a shining star and a bright light in the NBA," Collins said, "and we miss him. He plays the game the way you're supposed to play it every night. He plays to win." ... Nick Young and Spencer Hawes had 10 points apiece for the Sixers, who were just 2- for-14 from 3-point range and 5-for-11 at the foul line. ... The Bulls made 24 of their 26 free throws.
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