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Nets-Bulls Game 3 preview: Still about Joakim Noah

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets - Game Two

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles the ball against the Brooklyn Nets during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 22, 2013 in New York City. The Bulls defeated the Nets 90-82. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Joakim Noah, it seems, will decide this series.

Battling plantar fasciitis, he played 13 minutes in Game 1, and the Nets won by 17. He played 25 minutes in Game 2, and the Bulls won by eight. More than just his quality play, Noah inspires the Bulls. In Game 2, their bench went wild and players on the court showed much better body language – though they certainly had more to celebrate.

Can Noah play another mostly quality 25 minutes tonight?

That’s a huge unknown. Plantar fasciitis doesn’t improve without rest, and at this time of year, Noah isn’t getting much of that.

This series hangs so much on an issue neither team – at this point, anyway – has much control over, but there are plenty of other interesting issues on the margins. Here are a few:

  • Will the Bulls coax enough positional defense from Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson, their two leading scorers so far, to keep them on the floor and effective?
  • Will the Nets adjust their starting lineup? With Reggie Evans and an unconfident Gerald Wallace sharing the court in Game 2, Brooklyn’s offensive rating was 47.6.
  • Will Joe Johnson, who’s battling a foot injury of his own, make a serious difference for the first time this series? Though he’s averaging 16.5 points per game, he’s taken just two free throws and not shooting very efficiently.
  • Will the Bulls limit Deron Williams and Brook Lopez simultaneously. When those two share the court, the Nets’ net rating is +14.9.