TORONTO -- After missing more than two months with a thumb injury, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah made his return to the starting lineup Wednesday night, scoring seven points and grabbing 16 rebounds in almost 25 minutes of action during the Bulls' 118-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Noah admitted that he was a little rusty in his first game back.
"My timing's a little bit off," he said. "A little tired, a little winded."
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau felt the same way.
"He missed a lot of time," Thibodeau said. "He's rusty. His timing's not there, but we've got to get it done."
When asked about Noah's performance, a frustrated Thibodeau decided to amplify the problems his entire team had on the defensive end. The Raptors shot 58 percent from the field.
"Disappointing," Thibodeau said. "We gave up 118 points. Not just Joakim, the entire team. It's not about any one individual, it's about our whole team. Offensively, we scored more. But defensively, it was a disaster."
Noah's teammates are just happy the 25-year-old center is back on the floor for the stretch run, although they realize there will be an adjustment period with Noah back.
"He was a monster on the glass, like normal," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "Great presence in the paint for us. And we just got to get him back in the groove. It's going to take him a few games to get his rhythm back. I think on defense, I think it was pretty good on defense. He got a lot of rebounds in a short period of time, did a great job of plugging the lane up for us and for him it's only going to get better and better and better, and for us, too."
After sitting for so long, Noah was glad he could contribute.
"It felt better," Noah said. "It felt OK. It's definitely not the result I wanted, but we just got to keep fighting and we've got to come with a better edge and [it's] a tough loss tonight."
Noah and the Bulls square off against the Miami Heat on Thursday night.
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.