Heat just too much for Bulls in foul-filled, blowout win
Three thoughts from the Heat's 115-78 victory over the Bulls on Wednesday in Game 2 of their Eastern semifinal:
Crazy start to a dull ending. The over-leveraged Bulls suffered numerous blowouts this season and so it was no surprise the continued absences of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich left them vulnerable to a big response by Miami after the Heat had blown homecourt advantage in the series opener. The Bulls were practically out of reach when a pair of Norris Cole threes extended the Miami advantage to 55-41 at the half. That lead was more than doubled, as the Bulls' starters went 2-for-13 in the third quarter to trail by 85-56 going into the fourth.
The Bulls didn't react well to what was a chippy night all around. They earned six technical fouls (of the nine issued by referee Scott Foster's crew) and ejections by Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, who must give his undermanned team more than the 12 points and six rebounds he provided in 32 minutes. Coach Tom Thibodeau scolded his team for focusing on the referees.
"You come in here, you're not going to get calls. That's the way it is. That's reality," Thibodeau said in a televised interview. "You can't get wrapped up in that stuff. You have to stay focused on the task at hand and we've got to get the job done.
"I don't want to put it on the officials," he went on. "In an NBA playoff game there's going to be calls that go either way and if it doesn't go your way you can't allow it to impact the next play. You can't allow that to get you sidetracked so you don't do your job. You have to have the ability to do your job all the time. If you're thinking about them, you're not thinking about what you need to be thinking about.
"We're complaining to the officials, and they (the Heat) are laying it in. When the ball's live, you have one responsibility: to get back and get set. Help your team. Help your team."
Noah didn't disagree. "That's a lot of technical fouls," he said. "When you're giving up points at the free throw line like that, I would call that not keeping your cool. Not being very zen.
"We have to keep our composure and play better. That's the bottom line -- we've got to play better," he said, and then he thought about how they'd come out of Miami with the last laugh thanks to their split of the first two games. He grinned and added, "It's an exciting opportunity."
Miami reclaims its identity. We may look back and realize the Heat lost Game 1 because they were off for a week after sweeping Milwaukee in the previous round. Dwyane Wade (15 points and five assists) admitted the Heat learned from their distracted play of Game 1, when they made too much of the refereeing.
"Something happens, just line up, shoot the free throws and just move on," he said. "What we can control is our demeanor. What we can control is how hard we play."
Miami outscored its guest 56-18 in the paint and 20-2 on the break. Through three quarters the Heat had scored 20 points from 15 Bulls turnovers, while Chicago was scoreless on the eight turnovers committed by Miami. Miami outrebounded the Bulls 41-28. The Heat shot 60 percent overall and made half of their 18 threes. Ray Allen (10-of-10 on free throws) led all scorers with 21 points on seven shots.
It was the largest victory margin in Heat postseason history. LeBron James (19 points on 12 shots with nine assists and three steals) set them on the right course with 12 opening-quarter points while going 6-for-6. Just as important was Miami's readiness to match the Bulls' aggression. Twelve seconds into the game, Nate Robinson (11 points and four turnovers) drove to the right side and was hammered by Udonis Haslem. Robinson crumpled out of bounds for several moments before he stood back up to miss both free throws.
Nine seconds later Wade was earning a technical for throwing the ball at Marco Belinelli after a hard foul to stop Wade's breakaway. In the 40th second, Chris Bosh drew a hard charge on a drive by Noah. At that stage the score was 1-1, and it was already looking more like the German Bundesliga than the NBA playoffs.
Wade believed Chicago did Miami a favor by giving them something to worry about after losing Game 1. "Going three months without any adversity is not what we're used to," he said. "Since we've been a group together, we've had to deal with some adversity. I think this is our first of the season. Losing Game 1 at home was tough, and we had to go back and look at ourselves in the mirror, and look at each other in the eye and say, 'Listen, what reason are we here for? We got to come out and play with better effort.' And I thought we did."
The pivot of Game 3. How will the series turn when these teams reconvene Friday in Chicago? The Bulls have made a stubborn habit of recovering from bad losses, which they've suffered because their margin has been limited by injuries. In spite of the lopsided defeat, they were upbeat at the thought of the next two games at home.
"We came here, we did our job, we won a game, we got the homecourt," Noah said with a grin. "We're a confident group. We got punched in the mouth tonight and we'll be back. We'll be back in two days. That game isn't going anywhere. The ball's going to go up and we'll be there."
Most interesting will be whether Deng and Hinrich will be recovered in time to be with them. Speculation continued to grow Wednesday that Rose might return for Game 3. It's hard to imagine, but if Rose were to decide he is ready, then of course the Bulls should welcome him back. Never mind whether Rose would instantly live up to his old standards: A rusty Rose has to be better than anyone whose minutes he would replace. But don't count on it happening.