Miami Heat's Maturity Getting Best of Chippy Chicago Bulls

Peter EmerickSenior Writer IIMay 11, 2013

May 10, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Nazr Mohammed (48) pushes Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second quarter in game three of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

The Miami Heat are up 2-1 on the Chicago Bulls, thanks to a 104-94 Game 3 win. But they aren't up a game on the Bulls simply because they are the more talented team. 

They are beating the Bulls because of their mental acuity and their maturity in the face of the Bulls' chippy and overly physical play. It shows in the way they are playing late in close games and also in their production off the bench. 

LeBron James led the Heat in Game 3, with 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including perfect 11-of-11 shooting from the charity stripe.

Even a year ago, the thought of LeBron shooting 100 percent from the free-throw line would've been laughable. But his maturity and ability to focus on the moment is continuing to take him to the next level.

And let's not forget about Norris Cole's ridiculous 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. 

A second-year player coming off the bench and playing at such a high level of efficiency doesn't just happen. Cole was able to play so well in Game 3 because of the maturity he developed with the Heat during last year's NBA Finals run.

There's a big difference between a team playing with heart and a team playing without maturity and discipline, and that divide is pretty clear in this series. 

While it would possibly make for more entertaining TV if the Heat were battling back with technical fouls and fights, they are instead responding in a mature way by simply letting their play on the court do the talking.

It sounds so cheesy and cliché, but the Heat are truly letting their team play speak louder than the Bulls' chippy play and that's the sign of a mature, disciplined and well-coached team. 

A perfect example of this maturity can be seen in the final minute of Game 2 when LeBron James and Joakim Noah got tangled up. 

There's no denying that LeBron pushed off Noah, responding to his swat at him after the whistle, but that's exactly where LeBron let that play stand. 

Noah on the other hand, just couldn't keep his mouth shut. Instead of walking away, Noah turned back into the fray and had some words for LeBron and Co., and as expected it resulted in a technical foul and an escalation of that scenario for Noah.

At this point in his career, Noah should understand that he's not going to win a verbal battle with LeBron, because LeBron is simply not going to respond. Instead, he chooses to be the more mature disciplined person and player.

Noah's immaturity was also on display when he ran over to Nate Robinson's aid and shoved Chris Andersen out of the way, instead of simply helping his own player up.

The Heat responded by working to separate the players, whereas Noah worked to try to escalate the situation, and that's a sign of an immature player. 

The problem for the Bulls is that aside from Robinson's emotional spark at times, Noah is the Bulls' "leader" and is doing an absolutely horrible job of leading by example.

Noah and LeBron couldn't be any more dissimilar in terms of their leadership, and the foundational difference between them is maturity and a scope of perspective—LeBron's being a championship, Noah's being to be a tough guy.

Another solid example of the Heat's maturity in the face of the Bulls' chippy play was in Game 3 when Nazr Mohammed decided to go all "UFC" on LeBron and push him to the ground.

We could argue until we're blue in the face whether or not LeBron actually pushed the 6'10'', 250-pound center to the ground. But what Mohammed did was absolutely inexcusable. 

I'm not sure what he was trying to accomplish by shoving LeBron to the ground, but the only thing he accomplished was getting an early trip to the locker room.

While LeBron's response to Mohammed's shove was impressive, the total response of the Heat, as a team, is even more impressive.

Aside from Chris Andersen, who looked like he was ready to throw down with anyone looking for a fight, the Heat players on the court simply let the refs take control of the situation and focused instead on game.

Everyone in the world knew that LeBron wasn't going to get up and punch Mohammed or do anything to get himself taken out of the series. Instead, LeBron kept playing, giving Mohammed's ridiculous push no more thought. 

That's the sign of a player who's focused on the ultimate goal of winning an NBA championship, instead of trying to be a "tough guy" in the moment.

Not only does LeBron react to "chippy moments" in a mature way. The Heat, as a team, respond to those moments in a mature way as well—minus Dwyane Wade's childish ball toss at Marco Belinelli in Game 2.

LeBron is leading the Heat with his maturity and discipline, and it's clearly on display in this series that could've gotten out of control.