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Updated: April 24, 2013 6:55PM



We’re going to talk about the Bulls’ toughness, but we’re not going to comparison-shop. We won’t celebrate Joakim Noah’s heart as a way of condemning Derrick Rose’s.

If you want to read or hear about how wimpy, selfish and misguided Rose is, go to Facebook, Twitter or your favorite radio talk show. But you won’t find that kind of nonsense here. If you know someone who has gone through major knee surgery, as Rose has, you know all about hell.

So let’s talk about Noah and plantar fasciitis, a foot condition that, for many people, feels like an endless encounter with a broken martini glass. What we saw Monday was so much more than a high pain threshold. Noah was spectacular in ways that can’t be found in a box score. Racing to save a ball from going out of bounds. Blocking a shot by Brook Lopez late in the fourth quarter that seemed to demoralize the Nets. It’s one thing to grit your teeth and will your way through a game; it’s another to be a difference-maker.

Maybe we’ll end up calling it the Foot Game, the way we talk about Michael Jordan’s Flu Game — or, as his former trainer now calls it, the Tainted Pizza Game. For all we know, Noah’s right foot felt fine in the Bulls’ series-tying victory against the Nets. Maybe we’re guilty of mythologizing here, but plantar fasciitis has a way of felling even the biggest man. The only way it goes away is with rest. There is no mouse to remove the thorn from the lion’s paw.

‘‘I feel like the more I’m on the court, if my foot is willing, it’s going to get better,’’ Noah said afterward.

The opposite would seem to be true, but it’s his body and his coping technique. His mind is telling him he’ll have the offseason to rest his sore arch.

Let’s talk about a beat-up team. Let’s talk about players who have persevered through injuries and their coach’s maniacal approach to playing time. I’m referring, of course, to Tom ‘‘Verizon’’ Thibodeau and his unlimited minutes.

At this point in his career, Kirk Hinrich is pretty much a perpetual frown face on the pain-intensity chart. But despite his thigh, hand or whatever it was this time, Hinrich was great Monday. He made the jumpers he usually misses, and though he had trouble at times staying in front of Deron Williams (just like everybody does), he was a huge disruption to Williams’ designs on world domination.

Luol Deng, who knows a thing or two about unfairly being called soft, bounced back from his Game 1 debacle and played well. Taj Gibson still is feeling the effects of a sprained knee but gave Thibs what he could.

Look, the Bulls aren’t going anywhere. They’re a battered, hobbled, almost used-up team. They weren’t going anywhere even if they had their star point guard for 25 minutes a game. But what we saw Monday was a testament to desire. Sure, somebody should have stopped Noah from playing so many minutes during the regular season. He said he blames himself for pushing too hard with his foot injury, but it’s up to the coaching and medical staffs to save a player from himself.

It’s hard to see Noah’s foot holding up for however long the Bulls last in the playoffs, but let’s appreciate a guy with only a passing association with caution while we can. His passion for the game is unmatched, and it gets everybody on the team fired up. Watching the players on the Bulls’ bench erupt after each big moment was very cool. Teammates cheering for teammates instead of pounding their chests in self-celebration — imagine that. It was like watching a high school state championship game. That’s a big compliment in a league that too often seems incapable of the rah-rah stuff.

The one thing the Bulls have shown this season is resilience. Whenever they have played poorly, they’ve usually bounced back the next game. It’s one of the calling cards of a Thibodeau-coached team. It’s as though players know a poor effort is an affront to the coach, and the last thing they want to do is rile him even more.

Maybe they were worried he’d play the 12 of them 48 minutes apiece in Game 3 on Thursday.

Impossible? Just try him.



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