It seems neither the Heat nor the Bulls are shying away from the physical nature of their second-round series after the overly aggressive nature of Game 2.
Several technical fouls were handed out in the first half of Game 3, and Bulls reserve Nazr Mohammed was ejected for shoving LeBron James to the ground. In six quarters of basketball from the beginning of Game 2 to halftime of Game 3, the series produced 10 technical fouls.
Mohammed was ejected after a confrontation with James, which Mohammed initiated with a hard foul in transition. Mohammed hacked at the ball, and James slung Mohammed to the ground. Mohammed then retaliated with a push, and James fell backwards.
Referee Joey Crawford pushed Mohammed away from the altercation while Chris Andersen rushed in to protect James.
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Then all heck broke loose.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sprinted off the bench to keep Andersen out of the fray, and Heat security director David Holcombe also rushed in to help maintain control.
After both teams returned to their benches, officials reviewed video of the sequence, ejected Mohammed and assessed James with a technical foul.
The nastiness continued through the first half, with Joakim Noah screaming taunts in Chris Bosh’s ear as they jogged down the court, and Andersen skipping off the court after a substitution, in effect mocking the United Center.
Earlier in the first half, Noah was hit with a technical foul for pushing Andersen after a collision under the basket between Andersen and Nate Robinson. Andersen fell onto Robinson and Noah, rushing in to help Robinson up, pushed Andersen aside. Teammates rushed into the scrum, with referee David Guthrie pushing Andersen away from the action.
After a personal foul by Mario Chalmers on Noah in Game 2 was changed to a flagrant foul, Chalmers indicated the upgrade was legitimate. When asked about the foul before Friday’s game, Chalmers owned up to the aggressive play, saying jokingly that, “yeah, I was trying to take his head off,” while adding, “I blame Mike Miller for teaching me all those MMA moves.”
It was Chalmers’ first flagrant foul of the playoffs. Players are suspended for one game after four flagrant fouls.
In addition to flagrant fouls on Andersen and now Chalmers, the Heat and Bulls combined for nine technical fouls in Game 2. Chicago had six of the techs, with Taj Gibson and Noah being ejected from the game for berating officials.
The NBA fined Gibson $25,000 for his outburst. Noah was not fined despite walking onto the court to scream at a ref.
Asked how the physical nature of Game 2 might affect Game 3, Spoelstra suggested that the high volume of technical fouls was an indication of the series getting out of hand.
“Again, some of the emotions and everything that came out towards the end of the game, and even during the course of the game, it’s not indicative of how the game was played,” Spoelstra said. “It was a physical basketball game, but I think both teams thought it was clean, and I don’t think anything was over the top.”