When Bulls center Omer Asik limped to the locker room after playing less than two minutes in Tuesday's Game 4 loss in Miami, it looked like he could be out for a while.
That news became official Wednesday when the Bulls announced the rookie from Turkey actually has a fractured left fibula. He'll miss the remainder of the playoffs, which will be a span of one game unless the Bulls beat the Heat on Thursday.
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When Asik was injured in the third quarter of Game 3 on Sunday, it was initially termed a muscle strain in his left leg.
The broken bone was confirmed before Game 4 by MRI exam and CT scan. Asik wanted to try playing anyway, but knew quickly he couldn't continue. The projected recovery time was set at six weeks.
"It was something they thought he could play with," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He tried to go. He couldn't. That's the way it is."
The Bulls were outscored 10-0 during the roughly two minutes Asik was on the court from late first quarter to early second.
"We could all tell before the game, even at shootaround, that he was hurt pretty bad," teammate Luol Deng said. "He wants it just as bad as everyone and he really tried to go out there and try to do something, but he really couldn't."
Asik didn't play much early in the playoffs, but became coach Tom Thibodeau's preferred basket protector, beginning with the final two games of the Atlanta series. Asik played heavy minutes in the fourth quarter every night until suffering the injury.
The tallest player on the Bulls' roster, Asik had done a nice job of walling off the basket when Dwyane Wade or LeBron James drove into the lane.
"Omer's going to be great," Deng said. "He's going to be a good player in this league for years to come. You see the little things he does that a lot of rookies don't know yet. The one thing he does great is help defense."
With Asik on the shelf, the Bulls could turn those minutes over to veteran Kurt Thomas. He hasn't played yet in the Miami series, but made major contributions during the regular season and is very good at knocking down the midrange jumpers.
"(Thomas) may (play)," Thibodeau said. "We also have the option to go small. We'll see how it goes."
Without getting much from Asik, the Bulls' defense improved considerably from Game 3 to 4. Miami shot 50.7 percent from the field and scored 96 points in Game 3. On Tuesday, the Heat was at 40.3 percent and 85 points at the end of the fourth quarter.