That was more like it.
After being shoved around and embarrassed in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Heat pushed back Wednesday in Game 2 and kicked the door down against Chicago in a 115-78 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena. The series is now tied 1-1 with Game 3 on Friday at Chicago’s United Center.
“We were able to save this one, but we’re still in the hole,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Now we’re going into the lion’s den.”
Spoelstra understated his team’s Game 2 blowout, but, make no mistake, it was a statement game. This is what everyone was expecting when the East’s No.1 seed, after a week of rest, finally returned to action against the depleted Bulls.
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LeBron James said Tuesday that this series would not be determined by strategy and “X’s and O’s” but rather will power, passion and muscle.
Game 2 featured plenty of that. The Heat and Bulls combined for nine technical fouls, and Bulls big men Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were ejected for screaming at referees in the second half.
The nine technical fouls (six by the Bulls) tied for the most in an NBA playoff game in the last 18 years.
The Heat held a four-point lead with 3:42 left in the second quarter before outscoring Chicago 50-22 over the next two quarters. The Heat’s largest lead was 46 points and the 37-point win set a franchise record for margin of victory in a playoff game. It was also the largest loss for the Bulls in their postseason history.
“We came out with intensity and they did as well,” said James, who finished with 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds. “We played our game tonight and we attacked. This was a much-needed win.”
Led by James and Chris Bosh, the Heat outscored the Bulls 30-15 in the third quarter. From there, it got ugly in more ways than one.
Shane Battier and Norris Cole started the fourth quarter with back-to-back three-pointers and the rout was on. The Heat scored the first nine points of the final period to take a 97-56 lead. The run included six points by Ray Allen on a single possession when Noah and Gibson were ejected with 10:13 left in the game.
“I just wanted to let the referee know how I felt about the game,” said Noah, who had 12 points and six rebounds. “But I definitely deserved to get kicked out. We didn’t play well, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s 1-1. It’s going to be a big Game 3 in Chicago.”
Nate Robinson was the Bulls’ lightning rod in Game 1 but he was held to 11 points on 10 shots in Game 2. For the Heat, Norris Cole had 18 points off the bench and Allen had a team-high 21 points. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Allen was 4 of 4 from three-point range and the Heat was 9 of 18 from three-point range overall. In Game 1, the Heat was 7 of 24 from distance.
“We found the open guy,” Allen said. “You see small things on film where guys are open when they load up on LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade. To our credit, we found the open man Monday. We just didn’t hit the shots.”
Wade had 15 points, going 7 of 11 from the field. He played less than 29 minutes thanks to the blowout and received the game’s first technical foul when he threw the basketball at Marco Belinelli following a foul.
“Going three months without any adversity is just something that we’re not used to,” Wade said. “I think this is our first of the season. Losing Game 1 was tough and we had to go back and look ourselves in the mirror and look each other in the eye and say, ‘What are we here for?’”
Udonis Haslem answered that question early, putting everyone on notice on the first play of the game.
Robinson drove to the basket down a wide-open lane on the Bulls’ first possession but Haslem swung over from the weak side and met Robinson in the air. Haslem clobbered the diminutive guard, sending him flying to the baseline. Robinson remained on the ground for a few moments before shaking off the hit and making 1 of 2 free throws.
From there, it only became more physical.
“You got to get in the fight,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You’re going to get hit….so that has to be corrected. We have to have more fight and determination.”
There were 28 personal fouls called in the first half, including 22 in the game’s first 17 minutes. The game ended with 51 personal fouls (27 by the Bulls).
In addition to all the hacking and incessant whistle blowing, there were plenty of extracurricular dustups to keep the referees busy.
Officials handed out five technical fouls in the first half in addition to a flagrant foul issued to Chris Andersen for body checking Belinelli.
“I don’t think it was necessarily out of hand, physically,” Spoelstra said. “I think it was emotionally out of hand. It was clean. I don’t think he emotions at the end had anything to do with the physicality.”
For the Bulls, Marquis Teague and Nate Robinson were also hit with technical fouls. Wade and James received technical fouls in first half and Chalmers was called for a technical foul in the third quarter. Belinelli had 13 points to lead the Bulls, who were once again without Loul Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose.
“It’s a Chicago-Miami series, two teams that hang their hat on playing well defensively,” Wade said.