CHICAGO (AP) - The suggestion that he’s a flopper drew a grin as wide as his wingspan from LeBron James.
Miami’s superstar shot down the accusations from the Chicago Bulls, saying they reminded him of the days when some claimed he was overrated and questioned his ability to lead a team to a championship.
“It’s kind of the same (as when) I heard people say I was overrated,” he said Sunday. “It’s kind of like the same response.”
The Heat are trying to repeat as champions after a dominant regular season, and if they keep this up, they won’t have to worry about Chicago much longer. Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals is Monday, and Miami has a chance to take a 3-1 lead in a series with no shortage of hard fouls, technicals, ejections and fines. One thing in short supply is healthy bodies for the Bulls, with Luol Deng still recovering from a spinal tap and Kirk Hinrich from a bruised left calf. The odds that either would play seemed slim at best on Sunday.
Meanwhile, coach Tom Thibodeau’s wallet is a little lighter after the league smacked him with a $35,000 fine on Sunday.
That hit came after he accused James of flopping on that shove to the floor and questioned the officiating after the Heat took Game 3, saying the Bulls weren’t going to get the benefit of the calls. Thibodeau had already addressed the media by the time the punishment was announced and declined comment through a team spokesman.
Yet there was still plenty of talk about that incident between James and Mohammed.
“None of this is new to us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Nobody can hide from the fact that the games will be decided between those four lines. And our guys understand that.”
The Bulls‘ Taj Gibson expects more of the same.
“Both teams are tough and aggressive,” he said. “It’s playoff basketball. We’re both rivals. They acknowledged it. We acknowledged it. It’s just guys going after it playing like they don’t like each other. But it’s just playoff basketball.”
In Game 3, Joakim Noah had already shoved Miami’s Chris Andersen after he landed on a driving Nate Robinson late in the first quarter, and things nearly boiled over early in the second.
Both players picked up technicals. Mohammed got tossed, making him the third Bulls player to get ejected in the series along with Noah and Taj Gibson.
“I don’t need to flop,” James said. “I play an aggressive game. I don’t flop. I’ve never been one of those guys.”