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Bulls’ Joakim Noah feeling better, likely to start Game 2

Updated: April 21, 2013 10:03PM



NEW YORK — Coach Tom Thibodeau originally gave center Joakim Noah’s health status a thumbs up Sunday. Then he added a caveat.

‘‘[He’s] relatively good for, like, where he is,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Not quite the same soreness that he had previously, so he feels like he can do something here [Sunday], which is a good sign. So we’ll see where he is [Monday].’’

The Bulls hope he will be a lot further along in Game 2 of their playoff
series Monday against the Brooklyn Nets than he was in their 106-89 loss Saturday in Game 1.

Noah obviously was laboring in the 131/2 minutes he played, still battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot — and seemingly losing that battle. He scored only four points on 2-for-6 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. Meanwhile, Nets center Brook Lopez had 21 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots.

So what now?

Thibodeau was asked if he was rethinking his decision to start Noah over Nazr Mohammed, but he stuck by it.

‘‘Yeah, he’s a plus, he’s a plus,’’ Thibodeau said of Noah. ‘‘I think we feed off what he can do defensively, and offensively he has a very unique skill set because of the way he can pass the ball.’’

As long as Noah has no setbacks between the Bulls’ scheduled shootaround early Monday and game time, he will be in the starting lineup again. The hope is not only that Noah will be better with another game under his belt after missing so much time with the foot problem, but that his teammates will help him in the paint a bit more, especially against Lopez.

‘‘A guy like [Lopez], you have to defend with your whole team,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘There are a lot of things we have to do better against him.

‘‘He’s got a great touch. He’s got a very good back-to-the-basket game. He’s very good in the pick-and-roll. There are a lot things where we have to tie all five guys together, which we didn’t do [in Game 1].’’

As for the players, no one was buying the idea that Noah’s presence somehow bogged down the Bulls’
execution at either end of the court.

‘‘We love having Jo out there,’’ power forward Carlos Boozer said. ‘‘He’s been a warrior playing through what he’s playing through. He’s been playing through it the whole season, it seems like.

‘‘We appreciate him being
out there and giving up his body for us. That alone,
having him out there is much better than not having
him out there.’’



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