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PHILADELPHIA -- Following a team film session on Saturday, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said center Joakim Noah is "doubtful" to play against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.Noah turned his left ankle during the third quarter of Chicago's Game 3 loss on Friday night. The 76ers lead the series 2-1.
Initial X-rays on Noah's left ankle were negative, a league source said. The Chicago Tribune, however, is reporting that the team hasn't ruled out a fracture.
After Chicago's 79-74 loss, Noah was seen on crutches with a black aircast on his left ankle. He did not speak to reporters.
Thibodeau wasn't letting his team use Noah's injury as an excuse.
"The thing is, injury is part of the game," Thibodeau said. "You have to have a mental toughness to get past all of that. We've had injuries all year and you just deal with it. If you look, you can find something every night, every game. Shorthanded, regular season, back to back, early start, whatever it is, or you can find a way to win. That's what you need. You need guys that have great will to win, and no matter what the circumstances are will find a way to win."
Noah raced down the floor with 7:47 remaining in the quarter and rolled his ankle against Sixers guard Andre Iguodala's foot while going up for a layup. He writhed in pain for a few moments on the floor as Philadelphia fans cheered.
Iguodala was called for a foul and Noah remained in the game, knocking down both free throws. A few seconds later, Noah tried to run down the floor, but his discomfort was apparent and he exited soon after.
"He stepped on my foot and I pretty much knew it was a tough injury," Igoudala said.
Noah returned in the third quarter and scored, but it didn't appear he would be able to play much the rest of the way. He was taken out with eight minutes left in the quarter and was ruled out for the rest of the game.
"He's a fighter, and we know that," Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said. "We knew that before the game. Tonight really showed; he tried to come back in, but he was just in too much pain. It's tough, man. When you've got guys just falling by the wayside as the playoffs is going it's a tough thing."
Backup center Omer Asik came in and Noah limped gingerly back to the locker room. Noah had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Without Noah, the Bulls faltered down the stretch. Philadelphia erased a Chicago lead that was as high as 14 points in the fourth quarter in an eventual 79-74 win.
"When Noah plays great, he's sort of the soul of their team," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "And they missed him."
With Derrick Rose sidelined for the rest of the season due to an ACL tear he suffered in the first game of the series, Noah's injury is the second significant blow the Bulls' depleted roster.
"You never want to see anyone get hurt," Sixers guard Lou Williams said. "It's been a tough series for them. Noah is a big part of their team and you could tell he was hurting. We have to focus on us for Game 4. Andre (Iguodala) is hurting with an Achilles and a lot of guys are banged up."