Boylan, the former Chicago assistant who took over after Scott Skiles was fired, improved to 3-1 as the suddenly resurgent Bulls rallied to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 109-97 on Wednesday night.
Gordon (22 points) had his fourth straight strong game since becoming the sixth man, and Luol Deng added 21 points and 13 rebounds. But it was Boylan’s decision to go with a big lineup featuring Noah that sparked the Bulls’ comeback from a 12-point third-quarter deficit.
Noah scored a career-high 17 points and grabbed six rebounds while playing the entire fourth quarter, displaying the energy that made the flamboyant forward a college star while leading Florida to consecutive national titles.
“Sometimes you go the way the game is going,” Boylan said about his decision to go big to counter Charlotte’s three-guard lineup. “If things are going well for you, then your enthusiasm and your concentration and our focus is really sharp. Tonight (Noah) was very focused, his energy was infectious to our guys and it really gave us a lift.”
It hasn’t been that way most of the season. Noah, the ninth overall pick in the draft, came in averaging four points and three rebounds in 12 minutes per game. He played four minutes and failed to score in Monday’s overtime loss to Orlando.
But on Wednesday, with Bobcats coach Sam Vincent stubbornly sticking with a small lineup, Joe Smith dominated inside in the third quarter, and Ben Wallace and Noah provided the spark inside in the fourth.
“We just wanted to take it to them and be the aggressor,” said Noah, who shot 7-for-10 and had two steals. “I think that’s what we did.”
Jason Richardson scored 28 points and Gerald Wallace added 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Bobcats, who couldn’t build off Monday’s comeback win over Indiana and had no answer inside.
“We’ve got to mix and match and keep trying to plug and see what works,” Vincent said. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
With Richardson and Wallace combining for 26 first-half points, Charlotte built an 11-point lead on Derek Anderson’s two free throws with 4 seconds left.
Gordon’s 30-footer at the buzzer cut the deficit to 57-49 at halftime, but the Bobcats quickly built a 12-point lead on Wallace’s 3-pointer early in the third quarter.
That forces Wallace to play power forward, and the 6-foot-10 Smith towered over him in the post. Smith promptly scored eight points in a 22-8 run to put Chicago back ahead.
In the fourth it was Ben Wallace and Noah’s turn. Wallace’s two one-handed dunks put the Bulls ahead 85-79 with 9:58 left. Noah then had a tip-in and a layup before Andres Nocioni’s 3 made it 92-82 with 7:42 to go.
“I was getting on him earlier, telling him he can’t dunk and I would never throw him a lob and all that stuff,” Gordon said of Noah. “Then he came out tonight and played with a lot of energy.”
Charlotte got to 94-89, but Gordon hit another 3 and Ben Wallace scored easily in the post when he somehow got matched up with Richardson, making it 101-90 with 3:16 left.
“They were crashing the board and getting a lot of second-chance points,” Richardson said. “I played a lot of small ball at Golden State and that’s what happens when you go small. But when you’re a small team you’ve got to really focus more on rebounding.”
The Bulls, who improved to 3-0 against Charlotte, held a 50-40 rebounding advantage. Charlotte’s best weapon inside, Emeka Okafor, was held to nine points and eight rebounds on 4-of-11 shooting.
Don’t look for the Bulls’ key players to see their heavy minutes diminish anytime soon under Boylan, who decided it was necessary due to the team’s poor start. “Our season is starting to slip away a little bit,” Boylan said. “We need our main guys to come through.” … Boylan said he’s been focusing on offense more in practice since taking over, convinced his team’s defense is solid. … With Vincent going to a smaller lineup, C Nazr Mohammed played only 21 minutes, finishing with eight points and three rebounds. … Bobcats F Othella Harrington (knee) missed his eighth straight game.