The Miami Heat will go for their third straight win over the Chicago Bulls Monday night when Chicago hosts Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
Fresh off a 104-94 victory on Friday night, the Heat are preparing for another physical match-up with the Bulls, who have questioned the way their games have been officiated thus far.
On Sunday Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau was fined $35,000 by the NBA for comments he made about the officiating on Friday. He was upset that Nazr Mohammed was ejected for shoving Miami's LeBron James to the ground, accusing James of flopping.
James shook off the criticism on Sunday. "It's kind of the same (as when) I heard people say I was overrated," he said. "It's kind of like the same response."
"I don't need to flop," James continued. "I play an aggressive game. I don't flop. I've never been one of those guys."
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was similarly unmoved by Thibodeau's lament. "None of this is new to us," he said. "Nobody can hide from the fact that the games will be decided between those four lines. And our guys understand that."
Chicago will likely miss starters Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich yet again Monday. Neither have played in the series thus far. Deng is recovering from a bad flu and a botched spinal tap, having lost 15 pounds during a hospitalization last week. "My body, my system, is not reacting well to anything I'm doing right now," Deng said Sunday.
Bulls point guard Derrick Rose could conceivably return to the court at any time, but he and the Bulls remain mum on his chances of playing.
Chicago was able to keep close to Miami through three quarters on Friday, but the Heat closed with a 34-point fourth quarter that put the game away. James and Dwyane Wade were held in relative check throughout the game, but Miami got a 20-point, 19-rebound contribution from Chris Bosh and 18 points off the bench from Norris Cole.
The Bulls will likely continue their physical play as a means of slowing down Miami's fast-paced offense. With so many critical contributors out of commission, Chicago's best chance at winning is forcing Miami into bad decisions and long jump shots.
When the Heat have been able to penetrate the painted area, as they did in the fourth quarter of Game 3 and all throughout Game 2, they have been close to unstoppable. One more win and Miami will be on the brink of its third straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 4 tips off at 7:00pm ET, with coverage on TNT.