"I thought overall, I thought Jo was very rusty in the first game but willed it, and I thought he willed it again tonight and we needed every bit of it," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "To me, it's obvious we're a much better team with him on the floor."
Carlos Boozer had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Luol Deng bounced back from a poor opener with 15 points and 10 boards for the Bulls, who became the first team to win a road game this postseason.
They did it the only way they know how: with bruising Bulls defense.
"I feel like overall our team played passionate basketball tonight and that's a plus, because it was ugly in that Game 1," Noah said.
Chicago held the Nets to two baskets in the third quarter to build a big enough lead to hold off a charge in the fourth.
Noah finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who host Game 3 on Thursday.
Brook Lopez scored 21 points for the Nets, who shot 35 percent from the field and were just 4 of 21 from 3-point range. Star point guard Deron Williams was 1 of 9, finishing with eight points.
"We didn't get stops, which was the key for us because then we couldn't get out and run like we wanted to," Williams said. "We have to do a better job defensively next game. I've got to do a better job of everything really. This was a bad one for me."
After an unrecognizable defensive effort in a 106-89 loss in Game 1, when they allowed the Nets to shoot 16 of 20 in the second quarter, the Bulls got back to the mentality that has helped them overcome a number of injuries, including the season-long absence of Derrick Rose.
Noah, who has battled plantar fasciitis and whose status was in question coming into the series, played 251/2 minutes.
The All-Star center, who grew up and played high school basketball here, missed 12 of the final 15 games of the regular season. He was ineffective in 13 minutes Saturday, finishing with four points, but he was all over the court in the second half Monday, scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds and fighting for any loose ball he could get near.
"He's willing it is what he's doing, and to his credit," Thibodeau said.
Joe Johnson scored 17 points but shot 6 of 18 for the Nets, who couldn't even reach the 87.5 points they averaged against the Bulls in the regular season, let alone the 106 they rang up in the opener.
Two nights after the first major postseason game in Brooklyn since the 1956 World Series, the crowd wasn't as energetic and neither were the Nets, who didn't give the fans much to cheer about with poor starts in both halves.
"Our execution when they made an adjustment or when they increased the defensive pressure, we didn't handle it or react as well as we need to," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
The Nets didn't make their first field goal of the third quarter until Williams' only basket of the game with 6:35 remaining in the period.
Nets at Bulls
P Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
TV • NBA TV
Series tied 1-1