Did Bulls have a right to cry foul in Miami?
One sidebar to Sunday’s loss in Miami is this question: When LeBron talks, does the league listen?
After James squawked about hard fouls by the Bulls in the March 27 game at the United Center, one common foul by Taj Gibson was changed to a flagrant by the league office. Then in Sunday’s rematch, the Heat attempted 42 free throws -- a season-high for both Miami and a Bulls’ opponent.
After the game, Nate Robinson was asked if he thought James’ complaints made a difference.
“I have no idea,” Robinson said, according to espn.com. “If he has that much power, more power to him.
“Some days the refs are going to call it one way and some days they're going to call it another way. The referees aren't perfect. They do a heck of a job out there officiating on so many guys. You can't see everything.”
Here’s an interesting fact on this topic: The previous high for free-throw attempts by a Bulls’ opponent this season was 38 by Charlotte on the day it snapped an 18-game losing streak. So it’s not all about star power.
Sunday’s free throws didn’t directly affect the score too much, since the Heat missed 14 and ended up outscoring the Bulls by just 3 points at the foul line.
One area where it did hurt the Bulls was Jimmy Butler’s playing time. In 18 games as a starter this season, Butler has averaged just 1.8 fouls per game, even while playing nearly 44 minutes per start.
On Sunday, Butler was hit with 5 fouls in 35 minutes. He got his third at the 6:47 mark of the second quarter and No. 4 arrived less than a minute into the second half.
The Bulls had their best stretch late in the second quarter, though, while Butler was on the bench, so maybe it didn’t matter much.
But the quick whistles on Sunday make you wonder what would happen if the Bulls meet Miami in the playoffs. The memory of the 2011 Eastern Conference finals is still relatively fresh. In Games 4 and 5, the Bulls were outscored by 3 points in regulation time, while the Heat attempted 24 more free throws – and that was with Derrick Rose attacking the basket frequently.
Back on Mar. 27, when the Bulls snapped Miami’s 27-game win streak, James was answering a reporter’s question when he talked about the “non-basketball fouls” by the Bulls. But few NBA players complain as much during games as James and Dwyane Wade, which is why some people – Danny Ainge most famously – chimed in on how James shouldn’t complain about not getting calls.
During a typical Heat-Bulls game, most every time out begins with James or Wade having a long conversation with a referee.
On the other side, James commits fewer fouls than just about anyone, averaging 1.4 per game.
Checking the stats, though, a Bulls player fouls just as infrequently – Luol Deng.
Here’s the espn.com list of NBA players who commit the fewest fouls per 48 minutes. Two current Bulls and one former made the cut:
Player Fouls per 48 mins
1. Tayshaun Prince, Mem. 1.6
Jamal Crawford, LAC 1.6
3. LeBron James, Mia. 1.8
Luol Deng, Bulls 1.8
Joe Johnson, Bkn. 1.8
6. Jimmy Butler, Bulls 2.2
Kevin Durant, OKC 2.2
Andre Iguodala, Den. 2.2
Jose Calderon, Det. 2.2