CHICAGO — Center Joakim Noah thinks the Chicago Bulls are the hungriest team in the NBA. If that’s the case, he certainly did a nice job of filling the plate on Sunday afternoon against New York.
Noah recorded his fifth career triple-double and set a franchise record for assists by a center, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 109-90 victory over the Knicks at the United Center.
Noah finished with 13 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds for his second triple-double of the season and fifth of his career. It was his fourth double-digit assist game since Feb. 6. As a team, the Bulls piled up 30 assists to go with a franchise-low three turnovers.
“We’re not satisfied with where we’re at right now,” Noah said. “We just want to get the highest seed possible because when the playoffs come, we want to play in this building.”
Guard D.J. Augustin led the Bulls with 23 points, while guard Jimmy Butler added 19. The Bulls placed seven players in double figures.
Chicago is now 21-8 since Jan. 1 and has won nine of its last 10 games. The Knicks have dropped six in a row and fell to 2-20 at the United Center since 2001-02.
“At the end of the day, I worry about winning and losing. I love the fact that we are playing together and sharing as a team,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “When you get a group that makes that type of commitment, something special can happen.”
The story of the game was a scorching hot start by the Bulls, who jumped to leads of 16-1 and 25-6 in the opening quarter. New York got as close as nine points in the second quarter, but the outcome was never in much doubt.
“They got us off to a bad start,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “They came and they hit first. We didn’t respond until the second quarter. We were able to get back in it, but the damage was done. They had set the tone.”
The Bulls (33-26) scored at least 100 points for the fourth straight game for only the second time since hiring Thibodeau as head coach in 2010.
Forward Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks (21-39) with 21 points. Anthony can opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer and there has already been speculation that he will consider Chicago for a new home.
The Bulls have been rolling, despite losing Derrick Rose to a knee injury in November and trading top scorer Luol Deng to Cleveland on Jan. 6.
Noah turned his right ankle early in the third quarter as he drove to the basket and was lightly pushed by New York forward Amare Stoudemire. After a few minutes on the ground, Noah shot the free throws and stayed in the game. He headed to the locker room a few minutes later, but returned to the game.
Asked about his soaring assist totals, Noah deferred to his teammates.
“I think it’s just my teammates trusting me and giving me the ball at the top of the key,” he said. “I’m touching the ball a lot and it’s giving me confidence that my teammates are looking for me to make plays and I feel comfortable doing that.”
Stoudemire, who scored 14 points, fouled out with eight minutes left when he was called for setting an illegal screen on Augustin.
Fans at the United Center enjoyed the Chicago debut of guard Jimmer Fredette, who signed with the Bulls early Sunday. The former Sacramento Kings player checked in to a loud ovation with 3:06 left and drained his first shot attempt, a pull-up 21-footer. Fredette later missed a 3-pointer to finish with two points.
Woodson received a technical foul for complaining about calls in the third quarter.
NOTES: Chicago officially signed G Jimmer Fredette before the game. Fredette was granted a release by the Sacramento Kings last week and talked about what led him to choosing the Bulls. “I see how this team plays and they play hard every single night and they play for each other and they play the right way. That’s kind of something I was looking for,” he said. … Fredette, the No. 10 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, signed for the remainder of this season and does not have a contract option for next year. Defense has been a question with Fredette since his high-scoring days at BYU. “I don’t want to prejudge him in terms of where he is defensively because I don’t know,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I want to see how he picks things up.” … New York F Iman Shumpert returned to the lineup Sunday after missing five games with a knee injury. Shumpert’s return pushed G J.R. Smith back to a bench role. … Knicks F Amare Stoudemire was back on the floor after missing Friday’s loss to Golden State with a sore knee.
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