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With playoffs coming, the returns from injury by Noah, Gibson are well-timed

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) forward Taj Gibs(22) react during third quarter Game 5 first-round NBA playoffs basketball series

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) and forward Taj Gibson (22) react during the third quarter in Game 5 of a first-round NBA playoffs basketball series against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, April 26, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: May 17, 2013 6:44AM



ORLANDO, Fla. — Coach Tom Thibodeau couldn’t exactly say his team was getting fully reloaded from the rash of injuries that had hit the last two months, but it definitely took steps to getting closer to that point on Monday.

Taj Gibson (left MCL sprain) and Joakim Noah (right foot plantar fasciitis) returned for the Bulls against the Orlando Magic. Neither started and both were on a minutes watch, but the timing couldn’t have been better, considering they will have one more regular-season game to get the rust off and get ready for the playoffs that begin this weekend.

“It’s a chance to move forward,’’ Thibodeau said. “Again, we don’t know where they’re going to be. We have to wait and see. Both say they’re feeling a lot better. So that’s encouraging.’’

Noah missed 12 of the last 13 games, with the Bulls going 7-5 in the games in which he was absent. He came in against the Magic with 2:34 in the first quarter, and definitely looked sluggish. Noah played 6:37 in the first half, scoring two points and picking up three fouls. He finished with six points and five rebounds in 14 minutes.

Gibson missed 10 games with the original injury, came back to play seven games, and then reinjured the knee, sitting out the last seven. The Bulls were 7-10 without him.Against the Magic, Gibson scored 12 points in 21 minutes.

“We want to be at full strength,’’ Thibodeau said. “[Gibson and Noah give] us a lot more balance offensively and defensively. It allows us to play inside out offensively and defensively, it adds a lot more size obviously, which we think is critical.’’

The key will be making sure that both feel good when the Bulls get back home, so that they can play in Wednesday’s season finale against the Washington Wizards.

Thibodeau said he would likely increase their workload in that game, and let matchups dictate how much playing time each will get once the playoffs begin.



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