MIAMI — For the first time in these playoffs, the Miami Heat were facing some real adversity.
They responded with a technical knockout.
After nine technical fouls, two ejections and a whole lot of extracurricular pushing and shoving, the end results were as follows: The biggest postseason win in Heat history, the biggest postseason loss in Chicago Bulls history, and tons of fresh venom pulsing through the veins of this now-tied Eastern Conference semifinal series. Miami won 115-78, a stunning outcome for a game that was basically back-and-forth for much of the first half.
That is, until the Heat started embarrassing the Bulls, and the Bulls started embarrassing themselves for good measure.
“No matter if you win by 20, 30, or one point, it’s a 1-1 series,” Heat star LeBron James said. “They came in and did their job. They got one on our floor and took home court. So, we’ve got to try to go to Chicago and get it back.”
Game 3 is Friday in Chicago, where the Heat will have to win at least one game if they’re going to win the series.
Ray Allen scored 21 points in only 19 minutes, James finished with 19 points and nine assists, and the Heat led by as many as 46 points. Sure, the Heat have lost home-court advantage when they dropped Game 1. But this domination 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,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Technically, yes. In actuality, maybe not.
“Today, something was different,” said Bulls guard Nate Robinson, who made three of his 10 shots. “Not just with our play, just today was just weird.”
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. The Bulls were called for six player technicals, the most by any team in a playoff game since Boston had that many against Indiana in 2005.
“I don’t know how many techs we got. … I would call that not keeping your cool, not being very Zen,” Noah said.
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, who scored only eight points, said he didn’t fault his teammates for speaking their minds — although cameras suggested that Gibson’s language was more than a little colorful.
“Things don’t go your way, you’re competitors, you want to go out there and do everything you can when you feel you’re being cheated,” Boozer said. “You’re going to say something about it. But regardless we don’t place the blame on anybody else, we put it on our shoulders and we’ll play better.”
The Heat had three technicals assessed, a season-high for them.
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 huge edges in points off turnovers (28-7) and fast-break points (20-2).
The only stat that Chicago dominated: Technicals, where the Bulls outpaced Miami, 6-3.
“We got sidetracked and you can’t do that,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We allowed frustration to carry over to the next play. You come in here, you’re not going to get calls. That’s reality.”
Marco Belinelli scored 13 for the Bulls, who got 12 from Noah and 11 from Robinson.
For much of the first half, it was everything expected 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 one-on-one — 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.
The Heat never got that wrapped up in the shenanigans, or at least, didn’t seem to be bothered by it all.
“Sometimes, it’s going to be very physical,” Wade said. “But it’s the playoffs.”
Wade said losing Game 1 was Miami’s first true taste of adversity all season, and he was eager to see how the Heat responded. He said the team simply looked itself in the mirror and challenged itself to do better.
“We did a pretty good job,” James said.
That being said, the job is far from done. Chicago’s “Madhouse on Madison” now awaits, and 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.”
Jimmy Butler’s streak of consecutive minutes played ended when he took a seat 12 seconds into the second quarter. He logged more than 160 consecutive minutes. The Heat were 9-for-18 from 3-point range. James didn’t score in the second half. Miami’s biggest postseason win had been a 35-point victory over Orlando on April 24, 1997.
This article was originally posted on ESPN.com