Remember the 1990s, when the NBA playoff games featured more knockdowns than a Rocky movie fight, possibly more fights than NHL playoff games the same night? The Heat and Chicago went a little retro in Game 2, especially in the first half of Miami’s 115-78 victory.
No actual fights broke out. Sharp elbows, sharp words, technical fouls, hard fouls, more technical fouls, flagrant fouls (called and uncalled), still more technical fouls … referees Scott Foster, Rodney Mott and Sean Wright tried to play peace officers as the physical Bulls met a Heat team in no mood to back down.
The contentiousness led to nine technical fouls, the most for an NBA playoff game in 18 years, one flagrant foul and two ejections. The Bulls led in technicals, six to three.
“I would definitely call that not keeping your cool. Not very Zen,” Chicago’s Joakim Noah chuckled of the Bulls’ six Ts.
“We did a pretty good job of just staying the course under the circumstances,” LeBron James said.
Both the early exits, Noah and Chicago’s Taj Gibson, came during garbage time in the fourth quarter. Noah got tossed after complaining to Foster from the bench early in the fourth quarter. Gibson, upset over a succession of calls at both ends of the court, expressed himself to an official by firing off what appeared on the TNT network broadcast to be a repetition of a profane verb.
“I just wanted to let the referee know how I felt about the game,” Noah said. “But I definitely deserved to get kicked out.”
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said: “I don’t want to put it on the officials. I don’t. In an NBA playoff game, there are going to be calls that go either way. If it doesn’t go your way, you can’t let it get you sidetracked.”
Dwayne Wade said he thought the Heat made similar mistakes in Game 1: “I think we let too much stuff get in our way [in Game 1].”
Noah said he thought he got his first technical just for running over to assist teammate Jimmy Butler amid some flying elbows. True, Butler had just taken an elbow as James tried to muscle around Butler. But after James got called for the offensive foul, he and Noah wound up face to face. Soon after, they got twin technicals.
Game 2’s first 21 seconds established the tenor. It took 12 seconds for the Heat’s Udonis Haslem to foul Chicago point guard Nate Robinson onto the black rim of the court. After spending more than an eight-count on the deck, Robinson rose to miss both free throws.
At the other end, Chicago’s Marco Belinelli kept Wade from finishing a break with a bodycheck. Wade threw the ball at Belinelli, earning the night’s first technical foul.
The Heat’s Chris Andersen got the flagrant foul, running over to chuck Belinelli on his dribble with a better hit than most NFL defensive backs get on receivers coming off the line.
“I thought we came out with the right mind-set early on,” Wade said. “Play team basketball, but get into it defensively. Get into ‘the fight.’ And I thought we did that.”