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Noah, Johnson hobbled as Bulls, Nets resume series

Wednesday - 4/24/2013, 5:07pm  ET

Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson, left, tries to drive past Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng in the first half of Game 2 of their first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, April 22, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer

DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Joakim Noah feels like he is running on needles and Joe Johnson can probably sympathize.

The Bulls and Nets resume their first-round series in Chicago on Thursday after splitting the first two games in Brooklyn, and both teams have key players battling a similar foot injury.

Noah remains hobbled by plantar fasciitis in his right foot, and Johnson is dealing with it in his left foot. He sat out practice on Wednesday and is a game-time decision, meaning the Nets could be without one of their top scorers.

"We have a lot of guys we can lean on," Brook Lopez said. "We have to obviously worry about playing better defense, playing with better energy and tenacity. I think a lot will depend on how our frontcourt reacts to what they're throwing at us."

Some of that will hinge on just how much Noah can contribute for the Bulls.

Coach Tom Thibodeau indicated Noah will be limited again after playing about 25 minutes in Game 2 on Monday as Chicago pulled even in the series. He was held to about 14 minutes in the previous three games after missing time down the regular-season stretch.

"It feels like you have needles underneath your foot while you're playing," Noah said. "You can imagine. You need to jump. You need to run. You need to do a lot of things while you're playing basketball. You don't want needles on your feet, right?"

Noah has battled the condition in the past, and he has missed 15 games since the start of February.

He sat out eight straight late in the regular season before playing against Detroit on April 7. He then sat out the next four before playing about 14 minutes in the final two regular-season games, and his status for this series was in question after he acknowledged last week that he was in pain.

The way he struggled in Game 1, it didn't look like he would be able to contribute much. But there he was in Game 2, giving a spirited performance and finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds as the Bulls shook off an ugly loss to tie the series.

"It's not time to exhale right now," Noah said. "I think that we've dealt with adversity very well this year. Every time we got hit with a punch, we always responded pretty well."

Besides Derrick Rose's season-long recovery from a torn ACL, just about every other key player for the Bulls got banged up at some point and missed time. They're still standing, and they have a chance to grab the lead after seizing homecourt advantage in this series.


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