Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat was a testy affair, with both teams reacting poorly to perceived hard fouls and nine technical fouls issued by the referees. The continuation or cessation of that bad blood became one of the biggest stories of the series heading into Friday night's Game 3 in Chicago. And while there might have been some hope that the teams would put those incidents behind them and focus a less combative form of competition, the first half of Game 3 suggests that this series will only get rougher.
With 9:29 left in the second quarter, Heat uber-star LeBron James dribbled the ball up the court in transition at a somewhat leisurely pace. For reasons unknown to anyone but himself, Bulls big man Nazr Mohammed ran up from behind and hugged James in an apparent intentional foul, despite the fact that the Bulls had a numerical advantage in the frontcourt. James did not take kindly to these actions and twisted until he threw Mohammed to the ground. Referee Joey Crawford hit LeBron with a technical foul, which wasn't terribly shocking regardless of Crawford's reputation as an official who enjoys exercising his power whenever possible.
In a much less surprising move, LeBron immediately began to complain to Crawford. Ever resourceful, the 6-10, 250-lb Mohammed used this opportunity to spring to his feet and shove James in the chest. He fell to the ground, the teams got in each other's faces, and the referees decided to eject Nasty Nazr after a short review of proceedings. We will have to see if he's suspended for another game, leaving the Bulls without another player alongside their MASH unit of a backcourt.
And this wasn't even the first tussle of the game! After the jump, check out a clip of the play that earned Joakim Noah the night's first technical foul.
This play is a little less sensational. One of the final plays of the first quarter, Chris Andersen committed what seemed like a hard but acceptable foul at the rim on Nate Robinson. Yet Noah took exception and rushed to Robinson's aid, grabbing Birdman's arm in the process. Fans can take issue with the decision to give Noah a technical, but it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise as the officials attempt to get control of this series.
That doesn't look likely to happen any time soon. Although the threat of ejections and suspensions should keep players from doing anything too crazy, these teams appear not to like each other enough to keep getting in minor disagreements. No opponents shook each other's hands before the game's tip — a pretty rare occurrence in this era of the NBA. It looks as if the ill will won't dissipate until the series ends.
(Both videos via The Point Forward)