CHICAGO -- Nazr Mohammed was sent packing early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat on Friday night, and the entire Chicago Bulls team moved closer to its own group vacation.
Mohammed was ejected with 9:29 remaining in the first half when he used a two-handed shove to LeBron James' chest as revenge for being knocked to the floor. The incident started when Mohammed fouled James to stop a fast break.
"I don't think it warranted an ejection," Mohammed said. "I do believe it warranted a (technical foul). You just give a foul so a guy doesn't start a break, he pushes you and throws you down, and sometimes instincts take over. But it definitely doesn't warrant an ejection. I look at some of the plays that happened during this series already."
Already short-handed, the Bulls ended up with even less help and ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. The Heat went on to a 104-94 victory and now have a 2-1 lead in the series.
"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 of Mohammed. "I basically just tried to protect myself, stand my ground. It definitely surprised me that he pushed me like that.
"But I'm here to play basketball. I don't really get into the extracurricular of things. I mean too much to my team to even get involved in stuff like that."
Joakim Noah was also called for a technical foul after shoving the Heat's Chris Andersen late in the first quarter, but the physical nature of the series seemed to reach its apex when Mohammed sent James flying with the shove. Things seemed to have been building to that moment.
Mohammed referenced plays earlier in the series involving Nate Robinson, one where James landed on him and another when he was knocked to the ground in the opening minute of Game 2. He also mentioned Marco Belinelli getting taken down out of bounds on a play.
So when James reacted to the foul by locking arms with Mohammed and dragging him to the floor, was it a matter of realizing he had to stand his ground?
"It's one of those things that happened so fast, you don't know what's going to happen, but instincts kick in," Mohammed said. "When a guy pushes me down, instinctively, I'm going to get up and do something. Sometimes, you have to fight your instincts and do what's right. I'm disappointed I didn't fight my instincts well enough tonight because I could have probably helped the team a little more."
The Bulls seem to use the energy from Mohammed's play and a physical first half to head into halftime trailing just 52-50. It was tied after three quarters at 70-70. It was more of a standard brand of basketball after that, with the Heat having a better finishing kick.
"I don't think that had an impact on the game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked about the Mohammed-James incident. "I think that will be more for great theater for the next two days. It was really inconsequential."
Like Mohammed, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was shocked that an ejection was the end result. He said he didn't have an issue with Mohammed's reaction.
"From my angle, I just saw a guy basically flop, you know, and I'm going to leave it at that," Thibodeau said, although he didn't leave it at that.
Thibodeau said the benefit of the doubt is going to the Heat.
"I'm watching how things are going. I see how things are going," Thibodeau said. "I watch very closely. What I'm seeing is … we'll adjust accordingly.
"When you play them, you have to have a lot of mental, physical and emotional toughness. And things aren't going to go your way. That's the way it is. We're not going to get calls. That's reality. We still have to find a way to get it done. And we can."
Mohammed admitted afterward that his regret wasn't limited to being on the floor for just 2 minutes, 31 seconds of game time.
"I'm disappointed in myself also because my son was probably watching the game," Mohammed said. "I don't want him to see that kind of behavior out on the court. But I'm also disappointed that it warranted an ejection for something like a push when I got pushed down first."