HEAT 115, BULLS 78
By TIM REYNOLDS
MIAMI – It was the biggest postseason win in Miami Heat history, and the biggest postseason loss in Chicago Bulls history.
And it might have been actually worse than that sounds.
Ray Allen scored 21 points in only 19 minutes, LeBron James finished with 19 points and nine assists, and the Heat led by as many as 46 points on the way to a 115-78 victory on Wednesday night in Game 2 of their series, now knotted at one game apiece.
Sure, the Heat have lost home-court advantage in these Eastern Conference semifinals. But an absolute domination of the Bulls made the reigning NBA champions look like the clear-cut team to beat in this title race once again.
“We’re still in the hole,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team will need to win at least one game in Chicago if it’s going to prevail in this series.
But given how one-sided Wednesday was, that wouldn’t seem like too tall a challenge.
Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were ejected in the fourth quarter for Chicago, and the league will almost certainly review some of the things said and done in a game that was close for the first 20 minutes before turning into an embarrassment for the Bulls and an embarrassment of riches for the Heat. The Bulls were called for six player technicals.
“I don’t know how many techs we got. ... I would call that not keeping your cool, not being very Zen,” Noah said.
The Heat had three technicals assessed, a season-high.
Game 3 is Friday in Chicago.
Norris Cole scored 18 points for Miami, which got 15 from Dwyane Wade and 13 from Chris Bosh. The Heat led 42-38 with 3:42 left in the first half, before going on an absurd 62-20 run.
It was that one-sided. Miami shot 60 percent to Chicago’s 36, outrebounded the Bulls 41-28, and enjoyed a huge edges in points off turnovers (28-7) and fast-break points (20-2).
Marco Belinelli scored 13 for the Bulls, who got 12 from Noah and 11 from Nate Robinson.
For much of the first half, it was everything one would expect from a Bulls-Heat game, especially after Chicago took Game 1 on Monday night. It was physical – Udonis Haslem sent Robinson flying on the game’s first possession, and Belinelli hammered Wade on the ensuing Miami trip, one that ended with Wade getting the first of the game’s nine technical fouls for throwing the ball into the Bulls’ guard.
James wore a T-shirt that said “Up To Me” before the game, and it appeared the message had some literal meaning. After being held to two first-half points in Game 1, he went 6 for 6 in the opening quarter of Game 2, as Miami took a 25-20 lead.
“I wanted to be aggressive,” James said.
It was still close late in the second, before the Heat ended the half on a 13-3 run, one where Cole and Robinson looked like they were playing 1-on-1 – and the Miami guard was getting much the best of Chicago’s postseason hero so far.
Robinson made a 3-pointer to get Chicago within 49-41, then turned and said some words toward Cole. So Cole quickly had an answer, hitting one corner 3-pointer over Robinson and letting him know about it, then making another 30 seconds later to give Miami what was then its biggest lead of the night.
Of course, it didn’t stay that way.
“You just stay the course and understand what we’re here for and it’s to win the basketball game,” James said. “We were able to do that tonight.”
James didn’t score in the third quarter – he missed all three of his shots – and still was dominant, with five assists in that period alone, as the Heat turned it into a laugher. They outscored the Bulls 30-15 in the third, stretching the lead out to 31 points as Chicago missed 13 of its 17 shots in the period.
“We’re capable of much better and we’re going to have to be a lot better,” Thibodeau said.
Then in the fourth, with the game already lost, the Bulls lost what was left of their composure.
Noah got ejected with 10:13 left, and while that mess was being sorted out, Gibson got two more technicals and joined his teammate in the visiting locker room.
“I just wanted to let the referee, I wanted to let him know, how I felt about the game,” Noah said.
Even TNT announcer Steve Kerr, a former Bulls player, questioned the officiating at that point.
“I don’t blame Gibson,” Kerr said as Gibson left the court, television cameras catching him direct a stream of what appeared to be profanities toward either referees, players or both.
By the time most players were dressed after the game Wednesday, Noah was already looking ahead to Friday.
“We didn’t play well, but it’s not the end of the world,” Noah said. “It’s 1-1, and it’s going to be a big game in Chicago.”