Perhaps no player embodies the "toughness" mentality preached by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau better than his star center, Joakim Noah.

The 7-footer has battled plantar fasciitis in his right foot for much of the season, and the injury forced him to the bench for 12 of the past 15 regular-season games. As is the case with plantar fasciitis, the injury never truly healed, but Noah decided he wanted to be on the court in the playoffs.

And he's paid the price in pain.

"It feels like you have needles underneath your foot while you're playing," Noah said before the series started. "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?"

The All-Star started the Bulls' first-round series with the Nets on a minutes restriction, but that went out the window during the teams' three-overtime Game 4. Noah, who had been playing between 25 and 30 minutes all series, gave the Bulls nearly 39 minutes in Chicago's 142-134 victory and 43 minutes in the Bulls' Game 6 loss.

"It's a miracle," Noah said after the game. "Before the series started, I thought I wasn't going to be able to play."

Noah's postseason numbers have been down from his season averages -- 12 points, 11 boards, four assists in the regular season compared to 8.4, eight and two during the playoffs -- but he has helped anchor a Chicago defense that has managed to contain Brooklyn's scoring trio of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson.

Plus, Noah's role as an energizer cannot be understated. The big man is an emotional spark plug for the Bulls.

"Joakim has been a complete warrior," forward Carlos Boozer said. "He's amazing. I'm very proud to be his teammate."