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Flustered Noah needs to regain focus, on and off the court

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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MIAMI -- Joakim Noah is known for being an emotional player. On Sunday night, his emotions clearly got the best of him when he appeared to yell a profanity laced gay slur toward a fan during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Based on what happened with Kobe Bryant back in April when the Lakers' star was caught using a similar remark toward an official, Noah is looking at a hefty fine by the NBA.

"I just got caught up," Noah said after the Heat beat the Bulls 96-85 to take a 2-1 series lead. "I didn't mean any disrespect. ... A fan said something, and I said something back. I apologize."

When asked if he expects to be fined, Noah said "I don't know what's going to happen."

It was a rough night all around for Noah. He got into early foul trouble in the first quarter, and the incident occurred when he went to the bench with his second foul with more than six minutes remaining in the opening period.

After briefly arguing the call, Noah headed straight for the Bulls bench and began barking at someone seated behind him and to his right. Noah then appeared to yell a string of profanities and finished with what appears to be the exact phrase that Bryant was fined for using.

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His play on the court was almost as terrible as his tongue as he finished with one point, missing all four shots from the field, with five rebounds, six assists and two blocks. He also was the primary defender on Heat forward Chris Bosh, who finished with a game-high 34 points.

"I feel like I could definitely do a better job on the boards, and I need to finish better," Noah said. "I am really disappointed in myself with the way I played."

It was disappointing for the Bulls to have Noah struggle because Carlos Boozer had his best game of the playoffs. Boozer finished with 26 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks. He had 21 points and 17 rebounds combined in the first two games against the Heat.

Boozer, who hit 8-of-19 shots from the field and 10-of-12 foul shots, said Sunday he was more aggressive on offense. He also had seven offensive rebounds. But like the rest of his teammates, he was disappointed in the final outcome.

"We did a good job of playing," Boozer said. "We just have to finish the game better."

Heading into Game 4 on Tuesday, the Bulls hope that Boozer's play can continue at this level while getting more production from Noah. Chicago has yet to lose three games in a row this year, and the Bulls will need that trend to continue to avoid trailing in this series 3-1, which would be too tough to overcome.

Boozer said he doesn't expect that to happen.

"We feel like we had chances to win both of these last two games," he said. "We are not frustrated to where we will not keep fighting -- that's not our character. We are a tough-minded team. We will be right back at in Game 4."

The Bulls need Noah to be more focused and not let the crowd or his emotions take him out of the game. He also needs to play better defense.

Bosh was dominant in hitting 13-of-18 shots and getting Noah into foul trouble. Bosh also hit 8-of-10 shots from the foul line.

"I don't really worry about who is in front of me," Bosh said. "I know they're all good defenders, especially in the post. So I just kind of play my game."

Before this series started, Boozer said the Heat have "two great players" in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, obviously taking a shot at Bosh. On Sunday, Bosh got his revenge against Boozer and the Bulls' big men.

Boozer said "I always have respect for him," but it took Bosh leading the way in Game 3 for him to acknowledge that publicly.

"He did a good job of hitting jump shots and being aggressive," Boozer said of Bosh. "When he's hitting his jumper he's tough to defend."

Boozer can hold his head high with his effort Sunday. And if the Bulls want to tie this series at two, he will have to have similar production in Game 4 to help out Derrick Rose, who had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.

But Noah definitely needs to look in the mirror and question his play and the way he carries himself. Maybe losing potentially $100,000 will force him to change his choice of words.

It's all right to play with emotion on the court, but he has to keep his cool off it, especially when it comes to the fans and using derogatory language.

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