Heat Take Laugher, Tie Series
Miami — So much for that notion of the Miami Heat being in trouble.
Sure, they’ve lost home-court advantage in these Eastern Conference semifinals. But an absolute domination of the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night made the reigning NBA champions look like the clear-cut team to beat in this title race once again.
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 last night in Game 2 of their series, now knotted at one game apiece.
It was the largest margin of victory in Heat postseason history, topping a 35-point win over Orlando on April 24, 1997.
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, the most by any team in a playoff game since Boston had that many against Indiana in 2005.
The Heat had three technicals assessed, a season-high for them. Game 3 is tomorrow 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 28-7 edge in points off turnovers.
The only stat that Chicago dominated: Technicals, where the Bulls outpaced Miami 6-3.
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 Nate Robinson flying on the game’s first possession, and Marco 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NOTES: 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.