The Chicago Bulls are headed home for Game 3 against LeBron James and the Miami Heat on Friday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), but Tom Thibodeau certainly doesn't expect any special treatment from the referees at the United Center. The Game 2 blowout on Wednesday featured 51 fouls, nine technicals, a flagrant-one foul and two ejections, and heading into Game 3 Thibodeau didn't mind tossing out a few quotes to prop up the perceived disparity in calls by officials in the series (via the Chicago Sun-Times):
"We've got to do better, do a better job with [showing composure on the floor]. You can't get sidetracked.
‘‘We know how it's going to be called. We're not going to get calls. We just have to be tough mentally, physically, emotionally. We've got to be a lot stronger.''
To a certain extent, this is just Thibodeau's way to fuel the team's underdog mentality heading into a pivotal game at home. The Bulls have thrived in the playoffs despite injuries to Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, and it's never a bad idea to remind the squad that the odds are stacked against them -- especially in a series against the Heat where the odds clearly are stacked against them from a talent perspective. As for the actual disparity in calls, the evidence is a bit less conclusive.
Through two games, there have actually been more fouls called against Miami (48) than Chicago (47). When you factor in Chicago's physical style of defense and Miami's proven ability to draw fouls (the Heat ranked No. 8 in free throw attempts per field goal attempt this season), it's not a noteworthy split.
No Bulls player has fouled out so far in the series, and the only three players to even reach five fouls were Nate Robinson and Joakim Noah in Game 1, and Daequan Cook in Game 2. In more than 62 minutes of action, Dwyane Wade has only attempted two free throws, which is a remarkably low number for him. LeBron has taken 17 free throw attempts, but he's one of the best in the league at consistently drawing contact in the paint.
In sum, Thibodeau is likely trying to put the officiating under a microscope and motivate his team to execute on defense heading into a huge contest. He would almost certainly prefer the referees to swallow their whistles on Friday night and let his defenders bang James and Wade around a bit in the paint. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how Game 3 is called and how Bulls players respond to the officiating.