NBA Playoffs 2012: How Joakim Noah's Injury Puts an End to the Bulls' Season

Kevin HolzContributor IMay 7, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 04: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls looks to pass the ball during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 4, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

When Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL in Game 1 of the Bulls' series against the 76ers, their championship dreams disappeared with him.  

Rose battled a variety of different ailments throughout the course of the condensed 66-game schedule and the Bulls were still able to take the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference over the Heat.  

So once Rose went down for the season, it was assumed that while they would eventually be eliminated before reaching the NBA Finals, that they still had a better-than-decent shot of advancing past the 76ers.

Midway through the third quarter of Game 3 against the 76ers, Joakim Noah stepped on Andre Iguodala's foot and severely sprained his ankle.  The Bulls lost that game and Game 4, and go back home for Game 5.  

They are one game from being just the third No. 1 seed to be eliminated by an eighth seed since the NBA expanded the first round to seven games back in 2003.

The injury to Rose ended all championship talk for Chicago, but the injury to Noah is just too much for the Bulls to overcome this season. 

Noah averaged 9.8 rebounds per game this season and 9.3 rebounds a game this postseason.  Noah was besting Iguodala, Philly's best rebounder this postseason, by 2.5 boards a game. 

Noah also presented matchup problems with the 76ers.  Noah had size and length that the 76ers frontcourt has had problems with.  In three regular season games against the 76ers, Noah averaged 12 rebounds a game.

The 76ers only true center is Spencer Hawes.  He can't hang with Noah on the boards, averaging only six of them through the first four games of the postseason.

From a depth perspective, the Bulls just could not afford to lose Noah.  C.J. Watson and John Lucas filled in admirably for Rose during his extended absences throughout the season, but Noah never missed extended time, playing 64 out of 66 games.  

Omer Asik had to start in Noah's place for Game 4 and scored a whopping one point in 23 minutes played.

The Bulls best hope is for the United Center crowd to carry them to a win in Game 5, and for Noah to return in time for Game 6 if they are to have any chance advancing.