|ESPN.com: NBA Playoffs 2012||[Print without images]|
PHILADELPHIA -- Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is "most likely out" of Sunday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals after badly spraining his ankle during Game 3 of the Bulls' 79-74 loss to Philadelphia on Friday, according to Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau.
After the Bulls wrapped up a film session on Saturday afternoon, Noah was on crutches as he exited the meeting room. He wasn't putting weight on his injured left ankle, and was wearing a padded brace over the ankle.
"Most likely he'll be out [Sunday]," Thibodeau said. "I haven't gotten the grade [of the sprain], but it's doubtful [he'll play]."
Thibodeau confirmed that X-rays taken after Friday night's game were negative and that the team has ruled out any kind of fracture. Still, Noah's return to the series appears doubtful. He declined to speak to reporters, but his teammates spoke as if they knew he would be out a while.
"We got guys that are playing with a lot of injuries," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "Jo tried to give it a go to see where it's at, and you could see it, everyone could see it, he was having a hard time. You can see today he's on crutches. We don't know what his status is yet but most likely I don't think he'll be able to go."
Noah injured the ankle after stepping on Sixers guard Andre Iguodala's foot midway through the third quarter on Friday. He actually returned to the game in the fourth quarter and knocked down a jumper, but he struggled to limp up and down the floor.
Thibodeau was asked if he thought bringing Noah back into the game made it worse.
"He thought he could go; sometimes you can get through it," Thibodeau said. "Obviously, he was struggling. He's out most likely."
Thibodeau said the decision to re-insert Noah on Friday wasn't taken lightly.
"He twisted his ankle, then he has to be cleared by [athletic trainer] Fred [Tedeschi]," Thibodeau said. "If Fred clears him, then we give it a go. Of course, [Noah]'s got to want to play. If he feels he's able to play, and tells Fred he can play or thinks he can give it a shot, then you do so. If not, then you don't ... I'm relying on Fred. The game's going on and I ask him if he can go or not go, so that's usually how it works."
With Derrick Rose sidelined for the rest of the season because of an ACL tear he suffered in the first game of the series, Noah's injury is the second significant blow to the Bulls' depleted roster.
Despite all the injuries, Thibodeau is convinced his team can pull out a win in Game 4.
"Like I've said all along, I feel we have more than enough," Thibodeau said. "Next guy up, got to get the job done."
Second-year center Omer Asik is expected to start in Noah's place, but Thibodeau said he would make a final decision before the game.