Noah was astonishingly gracious afterward, crediting the Heat, saying, “They were very aggressive. They played very physical. They beat us in every aspect of the game.”
Short-handed Chicago needs the physicality because it cannot match what Miami has in talent.
It’s funny, the difference in a Heat-Bulls playoff series now versus when this postseason rivalry began.
These teams’ first three playoff meetings were in 1992, ’96 and ’97, during the Michael Jordan reign. Miami had no answers. Chicago won all three series by a combined 10-1 in games, and Jordan led the Bulls in scoring every game, averaging 34.1 points. That ’92 series was Miami’s first franchise foray into the playoffs, and Michael said welcome by scoring 46, 33 and 56 in a three-game sweep.
Now, Michael Jordan plays for Miami. His name is LeBron James.
James scored “only” 19 points Wednesday among six Heat players in double figures, but 12 came in the pace-setting first quarter, on 6-for-6 shooting. Teammates then benefited from the space he created, leading to a game-high nine assists. Most of the nine three-pointers came off passes by a driving James.
“I knew if I got aggressive [early], it would open up the floor for our shooters,” he said.
In Game 1, Miami shot 39.7 percent.
On Wednesday, those shooters were shooting an even 60 percent.
“Ultimately, it’s a game of makes ands misses,” as Spoelstra is wont to say.
Miami heads to the Midwest now still fighting to get past the unexpected sting of an opening home loss, but Wednesday brought a sense of order restored.
Wednesday made us smile at some of the reaction to the series-opening stunner.
An ESPN poll after Game 1 found 60 percent saying Chicago would win the series.
Front-running rapper Lil’ Wayne hopped the hot bandwagon, partying with the Bulls after that game.
In Chicago, a local company put up a huge video billboard that depicted Noah with a fire extinguisher, spraying the face of a crying LeBron.
Whoa now, Chicago.
Now, as the series pivots to the Midwest and speculation grows about a possible dramatic return by Derrick Rose, talk of the Bulls winning this series might bloom anew.
The Heat didn’t stop being the best team in basketball because it lost Monday night.
Did this team not trail in each of its past three playoff series a year ago but win it all?
This team did.
Is this team not better than last year’s?
This team is.
Has this team not yet earned our trust?
This team has.