Frustrated LeBron questions Bulls' hard fouls
The Chicago Bulls didn't just end the Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak Wednesday. They also left LeBron James frustrated as a result of some hard fouls.
James took exception to two fouls during the Heat's 101-97 loss. The first came four minutes into the game when Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich broke up a fast break by grabbing James with both arms and holding on as the players fell to the court. James also was upset with a hard foul in the fourth quarter by Bulls forward Taj Gibson, who swiped across James' neck and shoulder to defend a layup.
"Let me calculate my thoughts real fast before I say (what I want to say)," James said. "I believe and I know that a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays. First of all, Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground. The last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground. Those are not defensive ... those are not basketball plays."
James' frustration boiled over with 3:52 left in the game, when he was called for his first flagrant foul of the season after driving his shoulder and arm into the chest of Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, who was attempting to set a screen.
Hinrich tried to take a charge on James in the first quarter and said he was just trying to hold on to the 6-foot-8, 265-pound Miami star to brace himself for impact on the floor.
"The play before, there was a play earlier in the game where he was barreling down on me," Hinrich said. "I got the foul but he almost made it so I kind of ... you don't realize how strong that guy is and you forget sometimes, but with his speed and strength, you can't take anything for granted, so I still feel like I got the worst of it, obviously. But it was just one of those plays. I knew I was going to try to take a foul and then I just started going backwards and pulled him with me."
James said he's been on the receiving end of hard fouls throughout the season and has mostly managed to keep his cool. Earlier this season, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sent tapes to the league office that showed a series of hard fouls on both James and Dwyane Wade, including several instances when his players were repeatedly hit in the face.
James said he often resists the urge to retaliate, but admitted Wednesday that some of the hits have started to bother him. James and Wade rank sixth and eighth, respectively, in free throw attempts per game this season.
"It's been happening all year, and I've been able to keep my cool and try to tell Spo, 'Let's not worry about it too much.' But it is getting to me a little bit because every time I try to defend myself, I got to face the consequences of a flagrant for me or a technical foul, whatever the case may be," James said. "It's tough. It's tough. It's very tough, and I'm not sitting here crying about anything because I play the game at a high level. I play with a lot of aggression, and I understand that some of the plays are on the borderline of a basketball play or not, but sometimes you just got to ... I don't know. It's frustrating."
James attempted 11 free throws and finished with 32 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and three assists in the Heat's first loss since a Feb. 1 setback to the Indiana Pacers.
Spoelstra warned his team to expect a rough game against the short-handed Bulls, who were without All-Star center and defensive anchor Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli because of injuries.
Asked after the game about the hard fouls, Spoelstra simply said, "Welcome to Chicago and Miami basketball."
ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell contributed to this report.
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