WASHINGTON -- Bulls fans and Wizards supporters could probably reach across the aisle and agree on this much: This first-round playoff series has featured exciting games and plenty of physical play.
The first casualty of the rough style is Nene, who was suspended for Sunday's Game 4 at the Verizon Center after being ejected from Friday's Game 3. Washington's burly power forward was suspended for head-butting Jimmy Butler, then grabbling Butler by the neck with both hands.
It's been interesting to read and witness the perspective on the Bulls coming from the District. Sure, the Wizards have more offensive talent, but the Bulls are being described more like tag-team pro wrestlers than a basketball squad.
Here's a sample from Washington Post columnist Jason Reid: "The tough-minded visitors baited Nene into a fourth-quarter altercation that led to his ejection. ... Nene has been pounded. It's not surprising he got frustrated and mixed it up with Butler."
This is columnist Mike Wise's take on Game 3, also from the Post: "That's what you do when you can't win by outscoring anyone 115-110. You muck it up. You talk smack and dole out physical punishment. And if the Wizards fall for it and take the bait one more time in this series, they can about kiss their playoff dreams goodbye."
The Nene ejection began when he appeared to throw an elbow at Jimmy Butler. When Butler took exception, Nene's strong reaction got him suspended.
So what exactly was "the bait?"
Joakim Noah, who gives up at least 20 pounds to Nene, talked Saturday about that perception of the Bulls.
"Yeah, it's crazy to me how quick people pass judgment to say, 'Oh, this is who they are,' " Noah said. "Every game is different, every situation is different. They have a lot of physical players and we try to play a physical game, try to win the game.
"At the end of the day, it's the way the referees see it. So their perspective is what matters most and the only thing we can do is control what we can control, and that's do our best."
Through three games, the fouls and free throws are close to even. There have been 8 technicals, but no flagrant fouls.
In Game 2 at the United Center, there were a couple of near scuffles. Kirk Hinrich and Bradley Beal squared off, and later Noah went nose-to-nose with Trevor Ariza. Both events resulted in double technicals.
Both of those disagreements were set in motion by blows thrown by the Wizards. What happened before that, we have no idea. Obviously, physical defense is the Bulls' calling card and that style can get under an opponents' skin.
"Nobody ever likes physicality. But whatever it takes to win games, that's what we're going to have to do," Taj Gibson said.
An interesting backdrop to this talk is the "Bad Boys" documentary airing roughly twice a day on the ESPN stations. Those highlights of the Detroit Pistons make this series look like Phog Allen era basketball.
"This is the playoffs. It's all normal stuff," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You've got the same teams going at it game after game. It's great competition. That's what you look forward to."
The spin may not end until the series is done, though. Here's a question asked to Washington coach Randy Wittman before Game 3: "How pleased were you that the guys didn't get caught up in the shenanigan of Game 2, knowing that Chicago's going to try to junk the game up a bit?"
And to Noah as he sat at the team hotel on Saturday: "When you're playing the Wizards, how much is getting into their head part of the process?"
When the series returns to Chicago for Game 5 on Tuesday, maybe the United Center can be renamed The Bait Shop.