The play ultimately had little effect on the game’s final outcome, but it was the culmination of a series of physical actions from both sides.
Early in the second quarter of the Heat’s Game 3 win over the Bulls, Nazr Mohammed fouled LeBron James hard near half court in an attempt to slow the Heat in transition. James made sure to throw Mohammed to the ground as the two were tangled up, and he was whistled for a technical foul for doing so.
Mohammed got up and gave James a solid two-handed shove, which saw James fall to the ground. That needless show of aggression got Mohammed ejected, but maybe had James not fallen down, a simple flagrant or technical could have been called instead.
Afterward, the Bulls weren’t exactly fond of the referee’s decision to eject Mohammed, and believed that James may have exaggerated the contact he received.
“From my angle, I just saw a guy basically flop, you know, and I’m going to leave it at that,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said, via ESPN Chicago.
Nate Robinson was a little more subtle with his accusation.
“You see LeBron in a lot of commercials, a lot of good acting,” Robinson said, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
Mohammed, for his part, largely pretended that his actions didn’t deserve to get him tossed.
“It was a soft foul; it’s not like a fouled him hard,” Mohammed said, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. 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.”
Whether Mohammed has a short memory or he’s flat-out lying here is unimportant — the video clearly shows him swinging down hard on James before wrapping him up.
“I seen him hawking me down for a long time and I seen him come with one of those club fouls, which was unnecessary,” James said. “I basically just tried to protect myself, stand my ground. It definitely surprised me that he pushed me like that.”
The play will certainly be reviewed by the league office, and it’s possible that further discipline could be handed down in the form of a fine or a suspension. Neither is all that likely, however, because whether James flopped or not, the response from the officials at the time was swift and appropriate given the circumstances.