As the United Center rocked and the Bulls celebrated Marco Belinelli's go-ahead, three-point play with 7.5 seconds left, Joakim Noah remained down in the photographer's pit along the baseline, cameras and cheerleaders all around him.
"I didn't really see the play," Noah said. "I had the cheerleaders' pom-poms in my face."
His teammates saw it, which is why they were celebrating the shot that sealed the Bulls' stirring 85-82 comeback over the Pistons, their 17th straight victory in this series. It marked the second time in just more than a month the Bulls erased a 17-point deficit against the Pistons to prevail.
And yet Noah, who had authored, really, the play of the season — one that defines the heart and hustle that has the Derrick Rose-less Bulls on pace for 50 victories now that the midway point has been reached — remained down.
"We were over there celebrating and he was still knocked over by the cheerleaders," said Nate Robinson, who kick-started the rally with nine straight points early in the fourth. "We were like, 'Oh, yeah, we have to go help him up.' But that play shows how hard Jo works. He never gives up."
Noah smiled, clearly relishing the opportunity to tweak his teammates.
"Damn, it took forever, right?" he said of the delay.
All's well that ends well, right?
But make sure to find a replay of Noah's hustle, which came off Belinelli's bricked jumper. As Noah tumbled into cameras and cheerleaders, Belinelli cut to the basket, grabbed the fruit of Noah's effort and laid it in as Rodney Stuckey fouled him.
"I scored, but the credit goes to Jo," said Belinelli, who scored his second game-winner in four games.
Coach Tom Thibodeau just shook his head.
"Quite frankly, I don't know he got to it," Thibodeau said. "It was an incredible play."
The Bulls then watched tying 3-point attempts from Tayshuan Prince and Stuckey rim out as time expired.
"I stayed with the play," Noah said. "The basketball gods were on our side. It's not really a great play because if Detroit gets it, it's a four-on-five fast break the other side. Fortunately, we got it. "
Belinelli wins game again for Bulls
Chicago Tribune | Jan 24