It was clear the Miami Heat would be fired up in Game 2, but no one knew that the Chicago Bulls would stop playing near the end of the second quarter, losing in an embarrassing fashion (115-78), their worst defeat in postseason history, heading back to Chicago in a 1-1 tied series, as LeBron James didn’t even need to score in the second half.
It was physical, borderline violent from the start. The Heat kept their cool, the Chicago Bulls didn’t. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson didn’t like what was happening in the third quarter, losing 30-15 in it, and decided to vent their frustration on the referees. The Bulls used Chris Andersen to get those emotions out of the Bulls’ players, and the Birdman did his job, also adding 7 points and some great defense.
But the most important fact was the Bulls simply giving up early in the third quarter. No more ball movement, no more attempts to score in the paint. They simply made life easy for the Miami Heat by taking contested long jumper, one after the other, without any ball movement or any thought process. That’s when the Bulls miss Kirk Hinrich the most; when Nate Robinson tries a little bit too much on his own, and the rest of the team simply crumbles into submission.
The Bulls were outscored by 38 points in the paint, shooting a terrible 35.5% from the field while turning the ball over 17 times. The Heat felt loose and comfortable in any situation, scoring 20 points on the fast break and 28 off the Bulls’ turnovers. LeBron James kept pushing into the paint, and Jimmy Butler couldn’t keep up, looking worn out and in need of rest. James finished with 19 points and 9 assists.
The best performance in the third quarter came from Chris Bosh, scoring almost all of his points as the Heat pulled off the final crunch and creating just enough separation. After a terrible first game, Bosh responded with 13 points and excellent interior defense, making excellent off the ball movement and slipping behind Joakim Noah or any other big man time after time. In garbage time, Ray Allen managed to score enough to finish with 21 points and lead the Heat overall.
The Bulls, on paper, did what they needed to – steal home advantage. But some losses are more painful than others, showing some real problems that they might not be good enough to get over. Worse? An already very short squad just got a little shorter, with potential suspensions to Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah possibly coming.