Bulls begin to prepare for Game 4 without Noah


May 5

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It was something of a surreal scene Saturday morning at the Bulls’ hotel in Philadelphia as players filed in for a team film session instead of practice.

Reporters were asked to wait in the lobby, which didn’t please the hosts at the upscale hotel. Reporters then watched a pained Joakim Noah on crutches, his badly sprained left ankle hanging limp, struggle up steps and across the lobby with help from his mother and into the ballroom for the film session. Noah declined to address reporters afterward.

Though Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Noah “most likely” would not play Sunday and was “day to day” thereafter, anyone who has seen sprained ankles like this in basketball knows he has no chance of playing for probably a month.

Thibodeau said he didn’t know the degree of the sprain and would consult with team physicians before Sunday’s game. Thibodeau also said he was informed by team medical staff Noah could give it another try in the fourth quarter without risk of further injury if he felt able. Noah tried, but it was obvious he couldn’t. Thibodeau said the team was supposed to foul to stop play to get Noah out more quickly but didn’t get the foul.

It’s a rare double blow for the Bulls to face with Derrick Rose already out for the playoffs with his serious knee injury and the 76ers with a 2-1 lead in the opening round playoff series. Game 4 is noon Sunday. The Bulls then are hustled off to NBA-TV for Game 5 at 8:30 Tuesday.

Omer Asik likely will start for Noah, though Thibodeau called the lineup a game time decision. He also noted Taj Gibson is familiar with playing center and the team is comfortable rotating those two with Carlos Boozer.

Thibodeau expressed confidence C.J. Watson will recover from a poor Game 3 as would Luol Deng.

Here’s some early comments from Thibodeau about the Bulls circumstances heading into Game 4:

“Like I’ve said all along, I feel we have more than enough. Next guy up got to get the job done. There were a lot of good things in that game, up 14 in the fourth. We were up seven with four minutes to go. We didn’t close it out the way we would have liked. We’ve got to come back with more determination tomorrow.

“To me it’s not the mood of the team. You’ve got to make the necessary corrections and move forward. There’s a quick turnaround. Readiness to play. Having the right intensity and being able sustain for 48 minutes. We did a lot of good things for the majority of the game. We just didn’t close the game the way we would have liked.

“You deal with injuries. Next guy has a chance to rise up, and that’s the way we have to look at it. That’s the challenge we all face right now. We have an opportunity to rise and that’s what we all have to do. Obviously, there’s always disappointment when you lose. That’s a good thing. That tells you you have the right players. The big thing is how we respond, to have the determination tomorrow to get the job done. I want us to have greater fight tomorrow.”

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