When things got ugly, Heat revived
And LeBron James simply vowed he'd get into the fight.
All that said, it's hard to imagine the Heat or Bulls had in mind what transpired Wednesday night when they entered Game 2 of their slugfest of a series. But by the time they left AmericanAirlines Arena, both sides had a strong sense of accomplishment moving on to Friday's Game 3.
In what resulted in a 115-78 blowout Wednesday to even the best-of-seven series at 1-1, the Heat showed the toughness and aggression they lacked in a Game 1 loss at home and essentially frustrated the Bulls into submission by ejection.
But the Bulls also got what they came to Miami to claim: A split and home-court advantage. That was secured at the very least by Monday's 93-86 win and was a formality after they suffered their worst playoff loss in franchise history.
When it was all over Wednesday, the Heat and Bulls shoved, hammered and taunted each other into a combined 60 free throw attempts, 51 fouls, 36 turnovers, nine technicals, two player ejections and one flagrant penalty.
It was equal opportunity ugliness embraced by both sides.
"When two physical teams play that really want the game, you'll feel elbows, knees, everything," Bosh said after the Heat blended in enough finesse to shoot 60 percent from the field and notched their most lopsided playoff victory in franchise history. "That's what the playoffs are. We didn't do a good enough job in Game 1 of preparing like we needed to and we didn't play like we needed. I think tonight we did a much better job. And we better keep that edge."
That edge was established from the outset by the Heat. Literally. The initial blow came 12 seconds into the game when Bulls guard Nate Robinson drove for what appeared an open layup. Instead, Robinson, who torched Miami for 27 points in Game 1, was knocked into the courtside cameramen by a hard foul from forward Udonis Haslem.
Chicago didn't hesitate to retaliate.
On the Heat's ensuing possession, Bulls guard Marco Belinelli chased down Wade as he drove to the basket for what also appeared to be an easy layup opportunity. Instead, Wade ended up being bumped into the stanchion.
Wade was so frustrated with the foul that he forcibly threw the ball toward Belinelli and was assessed a technical foul.
The tone was set barely 20 seconds into the game.
"These games are going to be tough," Wade said. "The Bulls are not going to make it easy on us at all. We are going to have to fight for every win. We know Chicago is a physical team. We came in with a mindset of forget everything else and let's just play the game."
But it wasn't just a game. It proved to be a grueling grudge match between two teams that have legitimate disdain for one another after three seasons of rough battles on a Heat-Bulls ledger that now stands at 9-9, counting the playoffs, since James and Bosh came to Miami to join Wade.
By the midway point of the second quarter, there were a combined 18 fouls and five technicals as a result of the chirping and chippy play between the teams. At one point, Heat center Chris Andersen entered the game seemingly with the sole purpose to deliver blows and to instigate.
It worked. Especially on Bulls center Joakim Noah, who picked up his first tech in the second quarter and was later ejected after shouting at a referee from the bench late in the fourth. By then, the Heat had used a 60-22 run to blow the game open. Noah was tossed with 10:13 left in the fourth quarter, during the same break in play when forward Taj Gibson went after official Scott Foster and was hit with consecutive technicals during a profanity-laced tirade.
Both Noah and Gibson acknowledged after the game that their actions warranted the technicals and ejections. But they also stood behind the point they were trying to make.
"We lost composure as a team," Gibson said. "Things weren't going our way. You're going to get frustrated, especially when you're getting blown out. I was just trying to talk to [Foster] and get his insight on the play, and it kind of went the other way. I lost my cool."
Noah kept it simple.
"I just wanted to let the referee know how I felt about the game," Noah said. "I guess I deserved to get kicked out."
For the Heat, the challenge in Game 3 was to get their message across with their play and their composure.
"We know it's going to be physical each and every minute," James said. "We like it that way. We're not going to shy away from that. But we have to understand that we're here to try and win the game. They came here and did what they wanted to do. They stole home court from us. Now, we have to go to Chicago and try to take it back."