As mentioned by both Alex and my recaps of the game, things got a little chippy on the court last night. I think it's more of a footnote than an important theme, but other observers thought otherwise.
And you begin to wonder like with the 1980's Pistons if the Heat feel they can push the Bulls around without a response. We began to see it in last season's playoffs with the Indiana Pacers. It's why some around the Pacers privately yearn for the Bulls in the playoffs, though these things are a lot different when Rose isn't playing.
First of all: whatever, Pacers.
And then Sam called for....something...after the Wade shove on Rip, putting himself in Thibs' brain:
But what was perhaps most problematic to Thibodeau was after Hamilton's free throws Wade drove and scored. No one is saying to hurt anyone, and I'm not much a believer in the rough stuff. But you do have to stand up and make your point, and the Bulls didn't. Wade was left standing to score.
Wade scored on the drive and would score the next seven Heat points among his personal total of 18 after the double technical.
I do remember that particular drive by Wade, but didn't think the problem was that nobody on the Bulls 'laid wood' (or whatever) on him, it's that nobody even stepped in front to challenge the shot. Tom Haberstroh and John Hollinger thought that Rip sparked something in Wade too, but isn't the actual problem that he's Dwayne Wade? Hopefully Rip ultimately winds up giving the Bulls a better chance at slowing the former Finals MVP, as it was part of the reason for signing the guy. But if Rip doesn't, it's not because he wasn't tough enough, or TOO tough in riling up Wade (honestly, you can say it either way, right?). And I have the philosophy in the macro-concept of the game as well: the Bulls problem wasn't not being tough, it wasn't being good.
KC Johnson, who's long suggested some intangible void was formed by the departure of Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas, has Thibs quotes alluding vaguely to 'responding' and 'mental toughness'. But let me play Sam Smith and get in Thibs's head too: his team is usually quite physical with Miami, in that they're far bigger and dominate the rebounding numbers. It was something they didn't do on Thursday, which had more of an affect than any possible cheap-shot missed on their part. I could see from the other side, where HotHotHoops resides, that there was something in both Wade and LeBron that was different. They looked more aggressive than usual, giving away fewer possessions from complacency (or fatigue), and that is a plus for them. But not much having to do with the Bulls response, especially given that the major issue was the Bulls not responding with their own offense.
Heck, the free-throws that Miami stupidly gave away is one of the few ways the Bulls could score last night. I think Lucas getting all hot and bothered was one of the Bulls lowest points, and they were lucky the refs gave LeBron a technical as well to cancel out any infraction by Lucas. And forgive me because I was quite young at the time, but I thought the Bulls eventually beat the 90s Pistons because they proved to be the better team? I'm more in line with Kelly Dwyer's line of thinking, what we saw last night from the Bulls on the court and post-game in the locker room wasn't self-doubt to matching the Heat's physical play, it's that they can be that better team given that they don't know if they can be at their full health and capabilities in the playoffs.