Noah puts his all into Bulls' marathon win

ORLANDO -- After paying a franchise-record 60 minutes, 20 seconds in Wednesday night's 128-125 triple overtime victory over the Orlando Magic, Jimmy Butler sat on the floor of the Chicago Bulls' locker room with ice packs on both knees and a look of exhaustion written all over his face.

"Y'all can [talk to me] right now," Butler said as teammates walked toward the showers around him. "I can't move."

Butler's attitude represented that of his squad.

He said the Bulls were happy to get the win, but they were almost too overcome with exhaustion to enjoy it. When the possibility of playing a fourth overtime period was broached, Butler's never-say-die sentiment was even more apparent.

"I would have played," he said, “but 911 would have been on speed dial."

In so many ways, this victory in the middle of an 82 game NBA season was a validation of all the principles that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has instilled in his team over the last four years.

The Bulls could easily have rolled over several times. Through the first three quarters it looked like they weren't even that interested playing against a bad Magic squad. But as so often has been the case under Thibodeau's Bulls, they found a way to win a game that other teams would have found plenty of ways to lose.

As a group the Bulls had to make several huge plays to keep this one going, but it was the play of Butler and All-Star center Joakim Noah that had many in the tired Bulls' locker room raving.

"He's got great will to win," Thibodeau said of Noah, who finished the game with 26 points, 19 rebounds and six assists. "Great will to win. No matter what's going on in the game. He was terrific in every aspect of the game tonight. But even sometimes when things aren't going his way, when the game's on the line he's going to find a way to make something good happen. And that's important."

Noah continues to set a trend that the rest of his teammates follow. The Bulls take their orders from Thibodeau but they take their emotional direction from Noah.

He is the man who delivered a hard-working message to the city of Chicago last week about how hard he and his teammates would continue to play despite trades and injuries and how much pride he takes by wearing a Bulls jersey each night. He also is the man who continues to back up that talk during a season in which many Bulls fans have already given up on.

"At the end of day all you have of your whole career is ... your memories," Noah said, as he sat back in his chair with a relieved smile on his face. "I think that your memories are things that you can't ever take for granted.

"This is something that when you play in these triple-overtime games, you come back from the dead, these are things you'll remember. We'll remember these games. And I'm happy we won."

The most telling part of the long night came when Noah spoke of his friend Butler's performance. Like many in the locker room, he was appreciative of how hard Butler played. But the difference is that he has come to expect those kinds of efforts -- all the Bulls do.

"That's awesome," Noah said after being told that Butler's 60 minutes, 20 seconds played were a franchise record. "Good for him. Maybe we should bake him a cake or something."

Didn't Noah think this was a different kind of night after playing three overtimes and pulling out a win?

"I feel like we should definitely bake him a cake," Noah said. "For playing 60 minutes. I'm really happy for him that he made a franchise record."

But even after trying to play it coy, Noah had to appreciate how much he effort he and his teammates put in on a night they'll remember for quite a while.

"Seriously, though, there's nothing better than that feeling," Noah said. "Just getting on the bus. Just that feeling when you won.

"There's no better feeling than winning a basketball game. It's the best."