Game 3 between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls picked up right where Game 2 left off, with hard fouls, technicals and ill will aplenty. The game ended with Miami taking a 2-1 series lead thanks to a 104-94 win, but there were plenty of bumps and bruises doled out before the final buzzer sounded.
The heated nature of the contest shouldn't have been surprising to anyone, especially considering the fact that the Bulls have employed physicality to try to get under Miami's skin all season long. Game 2 featured 51 personal fouls, nine technicals and a pair of ejections.
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Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had a few choice words after the loss, taking particular issue with James' reaction to Mohammed's blatant shove.
Thibodeau on Nazr/LeBron incident: "From my angle, I saw a guy basically flop... I'm going to leave it at that." #HEATvBULLS— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) May 11, 2013
It's possible that Thibs was miffed about the officials' seeming inability to treat James like the rest of the players on the floor.
Guessing fact LeBron didn't draw a foul in over 44 minutes was on Thibodeau's mind when he said, "We're well aware of what's going on."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 11, 2013
Then again, LBJ spent massive stretches of the regular season without earning a whistle, so there's something of a precedent for his clean play. At any rate, Chicago's coach wasn't the only person to question whether James' reaction to Mohammed's shove was genuine. Nate Robinson chimed in, too.
As usual, James opted not to let himself be drawn into the fray.
LeBron was told by reporters that Thibodeau said he flopped. LeBron chose not to engage.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 11, 2013
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---Update: Friday, May 10, at 10:33 p.m. ET---
Even fashion itself was a victim on Friday, as Norris Cole's jersey couldn't stand up to the beating the Bulls were dishing out.
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What happened on Friday was just an extension of what's been going on between these two squads for months.
Chicago and Miami hate each other, and I really, really appreciate it.— Got 'Em Coach (@GotEm_Coach) May 11, 2013
In the game's most entertaining exchange, Chris Bosh was busy lighting into Mario Chalmers after the point guard had thrown the ball away on a drive. It should be noted that screaming at Chalmers is a favorite hobby of every Heat veteran.
Anyway, as Bosh was tearing his teammate a new one, Joakim Noah sauntered up and started encouraging the disagreement by yelling and clapping. Sure, he looked a little bit like a lunatic, but he was clearly just watering the seeds of discord that had already been planted between Bosh and Chalmers.
It was odd, but more than anything, it was a perfect embodiment of how both teams were willing to seize any possible edge—even if that meant clapping like a crazy person.
In the second quarter, Nazr Mohammed wrapped up LeBron James with a hard foul that almost looked like a cheap shot in the open court. It was a weird play, largely because James was merely jogging the ball up the floor.
The initial foul by Nazr was beyond strange, too.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) May 11, 2013
James took exception and raised a subtle elbow as Mohammed awkwardly hit the deck. The blow from James was hardly enough to knock the big man down, but it earned an immediate technical foul.
Before anyone could blink, Mohammed rose to his feet and hit James with a two-handed shove that sent LBJ sprawling backward onto the hardwood. James exaggerated the contact a bit, but it was still an unequivocally bone-headed play by Mohammed.
I dunno if I'd classify that as a flop. LeBron was busy complaining and Nazr hit him full force in the chest with both hands.— Brian Schroeder (@Cosmis) May 11, 2013
After a review, during which the officials probably spent most of their time discussing how bad Mohammed's decision truly was, Chicago's backup center was ejected.
Nazr Muhammad... That was just so stupid!— Vince Galloway (@Vince_Galloway) May 11, 2013
The dust-up between Mohammed and James wasn't the game's first incident, though, as the grand marshal from Game 2 had already kicked off the parade of technicals a few minutes earlier.
Noah got things started in the first quarter, rushing over to shove Chris Andersen as the Birdman attempted to pick himself up off the floor after colliding with Nate Robinson in midair. Andersen had clearly fouled Robinson, but the play was hardly a dirty one, and neither of the principal parties involved seemed in danger of squaring off.
Yet Noah rushed over and made contact with Andersen, earning the game's first technical and inciting a minor scrum.
Somewhere in Palm Beach, Noah is getting the finger.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) May 11, 2013
There were plenty of signs that Game 3 was going to devolve into yet another brutally physical affair, some of which happened before the contest even started.
In a departure from pervasive NBA tradition, neither team shook hands ahead of the opening tip. That lack of camaraderie turned out to be a pretty good indicator of how the rest of the contest would be played.
Yeah, it's safe to say these squads don't much care for one another.