TORONTO, (Reuters) – The Chicago Bulls crushed the injury-hit Toronto Raptors 110-93 on Wednesday for their seventh straight victory but the excitement was dulled by the news that centre Joakim Noah would be lost for two months.
Noah entered the contest nursing a sprained right thumb and showed no signs of an injury, contributing 11 points and 11 rebounds to the victory.
But after the game, the Frenchman confirmed he had torn a ligament that will require surgery and keep him out of the lineup for two months. “It’s tough not playing at a high level,” a dejected Noah, who is averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds, told reporters. “It’s hurting… I can’t practise. I have to get right and get back to this team.
“I’m going to miss playing. It’s frustrating because I feel we have a chance to be really, really good. I know that in the long run this is what needs to be done.”
When asked if he was having the surgery now so he would be fit to return for the playoffs, the four-year NBA veteran replied: “That’s the goal.”
The Bulls (16-8), who have streaked to the top of the Central Division, must now find a way to survive without one of their top performers. “It’s disappointing for Jo (Noah) but we’re confident with the abilities of the guys we have,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “We have more than enough to win with. “We’re doing what’s best for him, it was the right decision. It’s unfortunate but that’s part of the game, guys get hurt. “We have a number of players who can step up. We keep moving.” Carlos Boozer paced the Bulls with 34 points and 12 rebounds and Luol Deng added 19 points as Chicago sent the under-manned Raptors to their sixth loss in seven games.
It was Andrea Bargnani bobble head night at the Air Canada Centre but except for the thousands of jiggling little statues there was no sign of the Raptors’ leading scorer, who was shelved just prior to the opening tip with a sore left knee.
The Italian was joined on the sidelines by Spanish guard Jose Calderon, Serb Peja Stojakovic and American Reggie Evans, leaving Toronto with a makeshift lineup.
Boozer scored on a driving layup off the opening tip and the Bulls would never look back, outscoring the Raptors 40-26 in the second quarter to coast into the intermission up 63-44.
Chicago stayed on the gas in the third quarter, building a 29-point cushion. Toronto (9-17) went on 12-2 run to open the fourth to bite into the Bulls advantage but the rally fell well short.