CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah's foot still hurts.
The emotion that comes from a thrilling triple overtime win isn't enough to make the aching in Noah’s right foot go away, but in the midst of an all-time playoff classic he managed to push away the discomfort he’s been dealing with for the last few months. The big man was only supposed to play about 30 minutes in Game 4, a 142-134 Chicago Bulls' win over the Brooklyn Nets, but as the epic contest played out it was clear that Noah would exceed the minutes limit that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had hoped to keep him within.
Noah ground his way to 15 points and 13 rebounds in 40 minutes in a performance that earned him a standing ovation after it was over.
"I don't think I have any minute limit right now," he said softly after the game.
Noah admitted that he did speak to the Bulls' medical staff as the game kept going and played coy when asked if he talked about his minutes limit with Thibodeau as things played out. Yet again, Noah found a way to impact the affair with an energy that continues to inspire his teammates and coaches.
"He’s doing it on will," Thibodeau said of Noah. "He hasn’t practiced, he’s feeling a little better. He was actually in the practice facility last night shooting. that’s usually a good sign. Haven’t seen that in a while."
What the Bulls continue to see is an effort from one of their captains that permeates through the locker room. Noah's ability to raise his game on the biggest of stages continues to lift the rest of this beleaguered bunch.
"Unbelievable," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said of Noah's performance. "The crazy thing is as the series has gone along he's done more and more and more. Last game he had one point and that one point gave us a cushion we needed to win the game. Tonight he had a monster double-double, countless blocks, should have had more but the whistle didn't go our way as often as we would like it to. But Joakim has been a complete warrior, man. He's been amazing. I'm very proud to be his teammate."
Noah is just hoping he can find a way to keep playing through the pain. He admitted that he started thinking more and more about his foot as the game dragged on.
"I'm feeling it," he said of all the minutes. "I'm feeling it. I'm feeeeling it!
"But definitely as the game goes on you just kind of stop thinking about it and you just get caught up in the moment. It's bigger than your foot right now. It's exciting, man. It's what it's all about and we have a chance to do something special. This group is a really resilient group, we're been fighting through a lot of adversity and a lot of things all year and to be in this position right now, to close out Brooklyn in Brooklyn, it's not going to be easy but it's something we got to do."