WASHINGTON — Joakim Noah issued a simple warning to the rest of the NBA after the Bulls’ 99-91 victory Tuesday against the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center. Simple but deliberate.
‘‘Yeah, it’s real,’’ Noah said. ‘‘The Chicago Bulls are getting healthy. . It’s very real. And we know that we’re still not where we want to be. We know the sky is the limit for our team. Our confidence is just getting better, and we’re going to just keep working. And we feel we can get even better defensively, but it’s all coming. And it’s going to be a special year.’’
It definitely has been a special three games. The Bulls beat the physical Memphis Grizzlies on the road Friday, then outran the Toronto Raptors at home Monday before topping the Wizards. Even better was that they got serious production from Derrick Rose — 29 points against the Raptors and 25 against the Wizards — on back-to-back nights.
No wonder the usually stoic Rose broke out into a swaggy kind of stroll after making a jumper late in the fourth quarter.
‘‘It was just what I felt at the time,’’ Rose said of the half-skip, half-walk he did back to the bench after the Wizards called a timeout. ‘‘I never celebrate, but it was just something I felt. It just came out that way.’’
Rose scored 10 points in the fourth quarter while going toe-to-toe with Wizards guard John Wall. It was as though the injured lion was reminding the would-be king that he’s not there yet.
‘‘He’s been through a lot,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said when he was asked about Rose’s emotional moment. ‘‘He’s worked his way through it. He’s playing better and better and gaining confidence from that.’’
Rose made a seven-footer with 6:22 left to put the Bulls (19-9) ahead by nine, and just like that it was on. Rose and Wall combined to score 20 points in the next six minutes, but it was the Bulls who survived.
‘‘I think he made some tough shots, some tough floaters, but that’s what he is capable of doing when he gets off two feet,’’ said Wall, who led the Wizards with 18 points. ‘‘I think we were going back and forth for a minute, but they made the big shots down at the end.’’
‘‘He’s a good player,’’ Rose said of Wall. ‘‘I think everyone knows him and what he’s capable of. You just saw two people just go at it tonight. Two good teams.’’
It was the first time this season Rose excelled on back-to-back nights. Sure, he had ice on both knees and was walking like a senior citizen afterward, but he fought through it and had some great
results to show for it.
‘‘It’s been a step-by-step process, and this is really the first time he’s played really well in a back-to-back,’’ Thibodeau said.
Like Noah, Rose had a bit of a warning afterward.
‘‘I know where I’m going to be in a couple of months,’’ Rose said. ‘‘You all are going to be the ones that are going to be surprised by the way that I’m going to play.’’