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Bulls fall to 76ers 79-74 in Game 3; Sixers lead series 2-1

Philadelphi76ers' Evan Turner left Spencer Hawes center grab for ball court with Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah right during second quarter

Philadelphia 76ers' Evan Turner, left, and Spencer Hawes, center, grab for the ball on the court with Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah, right, during the second quarter of Game 3 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Philadelphia, Friday, May 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

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Updated: May 4, 2012 11:39PM

PHILADELPHIA — First it was Derrick Rose tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late in Game 1 of the Bulls’ first-round playoff series against the 76ers. Now Joakim Noah’s postseason might have ended after the starting center rolled his left ankle in the third quarter of Game 3.

Noah tried to return to the court in the third quarter and again in the fourth but was limping badly and had to leave the game on both occasions. The Bulls’ postseason hopes might have gone with him after their 79-74 loss, giving the Sixers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series

Despite losing Noah, the Bulls outscored the Sixers 21-11 in the third quarter. The fourth quarter was a different story as the Bulls were outscored 21-4 during one stretch en route to blowing a 14-point lead.

As if Noah’s injury and a second consecutive loss wasn’t painful enough for Bulls fans, it was Evan Turner who drew a foul after twice having his shot blocked and made the subsequent free throws to put the hosts up 77-74 with 20.1 seconds. The Chicago native was booed repeatedly at the United Center after stating his preference of playing the Bulls and not the Heat in the first round.

The Bulls got a final chance to tie, but Luol Deng’s three-point attempt with 16.9 seconds left was an airball and soon dejected Bulls players were walking off the court.

Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Rip Hamilton added 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists. John Lucas III added 12 for the Bulls, who trailed 40-39 at half.

Noah was injured after collecting a rebound and starting downcourt with just under eight minutes left. When no Sixer players picked him up, he continued toward the basket before stepping on Andre Iguodala’s foot, severely turning his ankle and collapsing to floor in a scene reminiscent of when Rose fell near the baseline of after tearing his ACL in Game 1.

Fans at Wells Fargo Center cheered as Noah held his ankle and writhed in pain.

Coach Tom Thibodeau and trainer Fred Tedeschi attended to Noah when he was on the floor. He eventually walked off the court under his own power and even remained in the game to shoot two free throws. He made both but began limping almost immediately. After two trips down the floor Noah was limping badly.

He left the game and went immediately to the locker room. He later returned to the bench with two minutes left in the third quarter. It was later announced that his return was questionable.

Noah checked back into the game early in the fourth quarter but was soon limping badly once again. He nailed an 18-foot jumper with 9:32 left before he was replaced by backup center Omer Asik. His status for Sunday’s Game 4 is not yet known.

Spencer Hawes had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Sixers. Jrue Holiday added 17 points, six assists and six rebounds while Lou Williams had 14 points.

The Bulls outrebounded Philadelphia 49-43 and shot 37 percent from the floor to the Sixers 34.

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