He’s been just as good, or better, in 2009-10.
Noah and the Central Division-leading Bulls look to open 4-0 at home for the first time since the team’s last championship season Tuesday night, when they host a Denver Nuggets club that’s dropped two in a row.
Selected ninth overall by Chicago in the 2007 draft, Noah wasn’t much more than a role player during his first two seasons. In the unforgettable playoff series versus the Celtics last spring, though, he averaged 10.1 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks to help the Bulls push the defending champions to seven games. Noah’s career averages heading into the postseason were 6.7 points, 6.6 boards and 1.1 blocks.
With forward Tyrus Thomas(notes) out for up to six weeks with a broken left forearm, Noah has stepped up his game in 2009-10, averaging a career-best 11.3 points, while ranking in the league’s top 10 in rebounding (11.0) and blocked shots (2.3).
He had a career-high 21 points with 16 boards and four blocks in Saturday’s 93-90 win over Charlotte - Chicago’s third straight victory since back-to-back losses at Boston and Miami.
“Since I’ve been in Chicago (arriving via trade in February), I’ve been impressed with Jo,” Bulls guard John Salmons(notes) said after hitting 9 of 16 shots and scoring a season-high 27 points Saturday. “He’s been one of those glue guys, one of those guys that works hard.”
Forward Luol Deng(notes) has also been working hard, averaging 16.7 points and 10.0 boards after missing the last 22 regular-season games of 2008-09, and the playoffs with a stress fracture in his right tibia.
Prior to his injury, Deng scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 116-99 home win over Denver on Feb. 20.
While Chicago (4-2) looks to go 4-0 at home for the first time since the Michael Jordan-led Bulls opened with four straight wins at the United Center in the 1997-98 championship season, the Denver Nuggets (5-2) are trying to get back on track on what started as a successful eastern trip.
After opening 5-0 for the first time in 24 seasons, the Nuggets are looking to avoid a three-game skid following losses at Miami and Atlanta.
“We didn’t have enough energy. We never did get a grip,” coach George Karl said following Saturday’s 125-100 loss to the Hawks.
The 125 points were the most allowed by Denver since a 127-99 defeat at the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 29, 2007.
Led by Carmelo Anthony’s(notes) 31.4 points per game, Denver is among the league’s highest scoring teams, averaging 109.3. The Nuggets, though, will face a Chicago defense that is holding visiting teams to 85.3 points and 40.4 percent shooting.
Anthony missed 13 of 18 shots and scored 12 points in last season’s loss in Chicago.
The home team has won the last six matchups in this series.