The Bulls didn't bite their tongues in assessing an exchange that saw LeBron James crash to the court after taking a two-handed shove to the chest from Nazr Mohammed during Game 3 on Friday night.
"From my angle, I just saw a guy, basically, flop," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I’m going to leave it at that."
With a little more than nine minutes remaining in the second quarter of Miami's 104-94 win, James was fouled hard by Mohammed as pushed the ball up in a pseudo-transition situation. The foul came from James' right side and as he spun to avoid the contact he swung Mohammed to the ground, a move that earned the 2013 MVP a technical foul from Joey Crawford. In response, Mohammed jumped up and immediately shoved James, who was not expecting the contact, in the chest with both of his hands. James appeared to let his body go as fell backwards all the way into the paint.
Mohammed was immediately ejected; the technical foul on James stood.
“We’re here to play a basketball game, and try to win a basketball game,” James said during a televised halftime interview. “All the extracurricular is not even really needed. But if it’s here, we accept the challenge.”
Thibodeau and Mohammed both said after the game that they didn't believe the veteran Bulls center should have been tossed.
"I didn’t think it warranted an ejection," Thibodeau said. "I understand a flagrant foul. I understand that. But an ejection, no, no, nope."
The Chicago Tribune reported Mohammed's reaction.
“It was a soft foul; it’s not like a fouled him hard. It was a stop-the-break foul. I thought it was a cheap shot throwing me down when all I was doing was trying to stop the break.”
“I’m disappointed in myself because I let my teammates down,” he said. “And I’m also disappointed because my son probably was watching the game and I don’t want him to see that type of behavior on the court. I’m also disappointed that it warranted an ejection for a push -- when I got pushed down first.”
Mohammed, 35, averaged 2.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in 11 minutes per game in 63 appearances for the Bulls this season. He departed with zero points and one rebound in three minutes on Friday.
Later Friday night, he apologized on Twitter.
"Sorry for my overreaction and being ejected," he wrote. "I blacked out and just reacted after I was pushed down. I'm happy it only resulted with a push. For the kids who were watching ... That not the way to react on the basketball court."
James finished with a game-high 25 points (on six-for-17 shooting), eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 44 minutes. He had 12 fourth-quarter points to seal the road win.
"I sat right there and let my teammates help me up," James said. "I mean way too much to my teammates to try to retaliate. It doesn't make no sense. I'm here to play basketball. I'm not here to do nothing else."
This exchange was just one of many that have occurred during this volatile Eastern Conference semifinals series. Bulls center Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were both ejected from Game 2, with Gibson receiving a fine for directing profane language at an official. Noah also received a technical foul earlier in Game 3 for shoving Chris "The Birdman" Andersen.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra tried to brush off the whole affair.
"I don't think that had an impact on the game," he said. "I think that will probably be more for great theater for the next two days. It really was inconsequential. ... Everybody knows what the deal is. It's going to be about the game. It's going to be decided between the four lines, everything else is to draw interest."
Chris Bosh added 20 points (on eight-for-16 shooting) and 19 rebounds in 42 minutes for the Heat. Chicago was led by 21 points and four rebounds from Carlos Boozer. Miami now leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is set for Monday in Chicago.