AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – There are different kinds of toughness.
There is mental toughness, which the Bulls needed to flush Monday's debacle in Brooklyn out of their focus. And there is physical toughness, which the Bulls displayed in myriad ways during Wednesday night's 105-94 victory over the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
The Pistons lead the NBA in offensive rebounding, averaging 14.5 per game. So all the Bulls did is respond to coach Tom Thibodeau's challenge – "Really, it's just a toughness factor when the ball is up on the board," he said – and dominate the glass. They held the Pistons to eight offensive rebounds, and enjoyed a 43-32 rebounding advantage.
Jimmy Butler displayed fortitude by grinding out 46 minutes, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds and coming up with a fourth-quarter steal and breakaway dunk in the game-turning run.
And Joakim Noah showed his grit – again – by rebounding from his six-turnover night against the Nets with his second triple-double in three games. Entering the fourth quarter with just two points, Noah finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his third triple-double this season and sixth of his career.
Noah is now the first center to record three triple-doubles with assists in the same season since David Robinson in 1993-94.
"He means the most to this team," Butler said. "He's our leader."
Postgame, Noah wore a splint to protect his right thumb, which was repaired surgically in 2010 when he tore the ulna collateral ligament in it and missed 30 games. Noah played the entire fourth quarter and showed no signs of pain during the game. He said he didn't know when the injury occurred.
"Just a little boo-boo," Noah said. "I don't really want to talk about it right now. I mean, I'll see how it feels [Thursday], but it will be all right."
The Bulls were more than all right with bench scoring, enjoying a 50-12 edge thanks to a team-high 26 points from D.J. Augustin that included 10-for-10 from the free throw line and 22 points from Taj Gibson.