Game 2 between the Bulls and Miami featured 9 technical fouls, one flagrant and two ejections. Game 3 included 3 technicals and one ejection.
So what’s in store when the scrum continues Monday night at the United Center? Well, the Bulls dropped those last two contests but won Game 1 when there were no serious infractions of any sort.
In some ways, it seems as if this focus on physical play might be misguided for the Bulls.
“I expect the physical nature to continue tomorrow,” Joakim Noah said Sunday at the Berto Center. “It’s our only chance.”
After winning the series opener, the short-handed Bulls have dropped two in a row and face a turning point in the series. Win Monday and the series becomes a best of three. Lose and they’ll fall behind 3-1 with the next game at Miami.
“It’s going to be an exciting Game 4,” Noah added. “This is what we live for — playing in a big game, playing at home in front of our crowd. Excited about the opportunity.”
Backup center Nazr Mohammed is anxious to get back on the floor after getting tossed in the second quarter of Game 3 for shoving LeBron James to the ground. Mohammed was reacting to James’ harsh reaction to getting fouled.
“I definitely want to go out there and help my team,” Mohammed said. “I can’t say (there’s) anything extra (emotionally) because I was already at a high level as far as how badly I want this.”
Looking back at Game 3, the Bulls accomplished most of what they need to do to hang with the Heat. They limited Miami to 28 points in the paint, 8 fastbreak points and 4 second-chance points — all series lows.
James shot less than 50 percent from the field, and Dwyane Wade (10 points), who has been suffering from a sore knee, seemed content to stay in the background. The biggest difference-makers were Chris Bosh (20 points, 19 rebounds) and backup guard Norris Cole, who is 8-for-8 from 3-point range in the series.
The Heat is a collection of stars, but it’s usually the role players who make the difference between winning and losing.
“They did a good job of keeping us out of the paint,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday. “Our ratio of our attacks to our jumpers was not in our normal success ratio. But they stepped up their defense, and we have to do a better job with our spacing and getting into our offense earlier. We didn’t get enough attacks.”
Spoelstra’s analysis went along with what the Bulls were saying Sunday. The Bulls’ formula for competing with the Heat is to keep the fastbreaks low and easy buckets infrequent.
“If they beat us with long, contested 2s, then you give credit where credit is due,” Noah said. “But we want to take away the paint.”
One of the Bulls’ many complaints after Game 3 was the 2 early fouls on Jimmy Butler as he guarded James. Coach Tom Thibodeau talked about how some games are called tighter than others and the players have to adjust. But Butler has no plans to adjust.
“I feel like we should never let the refs dictate the way we play basketball,” Butler said. “I think we should still be aggressive. If they call a foul, they call a foul. Just move your feet. Don’t play with your hands, play with your body and be in the right position.”
Noah did have a suggestion for where the Bulls could improve Monday. Not surprisingly, it involved keeping their emotions in check.
“I think it’s just important not to give them easy points,” Noah said. “They’re such a good team already. When we get frustrated, we get technical fouls. They get to the free-throw line. That’s just giving them extra points.
“And also understand there are little people watching. You have to … I’m not the one to talk, so …”
Noah stopped his comment there. A physical presence in the paint, he can provide. A role model for young basketball players, not so much right now.
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