Noah ignores pain in another gutty effort

Joakim Noah's teammates said just his presence on the court makes a difference. Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- The postgame routine doesn't change for Joakim Noah these days.

It's been the same way for about three months. After finishing up his postgame media session, Noah hobbles on his aching right foot to the shower and tries to find some other place in his mind to put the pain.

As the adrenaline from the game wears off, the pain grows -- but it's something that the emotional seven-footer has to be used to at this point.

He wants to be out there with his teammates so badly that he doesn't care how bad his foot is feeling, he just finds a way to push through. That was the case again Thursday night as Noah gutted his way through 27 minutes in the Bulls' 79-76 win over the Brooklyn Nets to grab a 2-1 series lead. He was 0-for-7 from the field, but he did manage to knock down a crucial free throw in the waning seconds that pushed the Bulls' lead up to three. He also pulled down eight rebounds and blocked two shots but it was his presence that his teammates fed off most.

"Jo does so much and he's not going to complain about his feet or anything," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "We just got to make sure -- the game is over, he feels great, he's got to make sure he's got to do what's necessary to give us whatever he can next game but you could see he's huge for us. When Jo is at his best or even close to that, we're tough."

Noah doesn't have to prove his toughness to his teammates -- they know it already. He plays the role of older brother-protector for his teammates and they know they can count on him no matter how much pain he is dealing with.

"It's hurting," Noah admitted of his foot. "It's hurting, but overall I'm just happy we won. We don't have a lot of time to rest but I'll get as much treatment as I can and be ready for Game 4."

With such a quick turnaround between Game 3 and Game 4 Saturday afternoon, the health of Noah's foot will be the single biggest storyline heading into Saturday's contest.