MIAMI — This was nearly the first playoff game in NBA history that needed a two-page stat sheet to make room for all the technical fouls.
After losing to the Bulls in the opener of this second-round series, Miami took the court Wednesday determined to be aggressive, physical and tie up the series.
The Bulls didn’t meet the challenge in any measurable criteria. They tossed the ball around carelessly, fell apart on defense, then made things worse by piling on 6 technicals and 2 ejections.
The final result was the worst playoff loss in franchise history as Miami dominated 115-78 at American Airlines Arena. The series is now 1-1 with Game 3 on Friday at the United Center.
“I feel like once frustration set in, everything went downhill — our offense, our defense, us talking to the refs,” Jimmy Butler said. “We’re not supposed to let the refs dictate how we play basketball.”
The referees weren’t the reason the Bulls fell behind by 46 points in the fourth quarter. The Bulls stepped in every puddle of what not to do against the Heat.
They turned the ball over, allowing Miami to get out and run its way to a 20-2 edge in fastbreak points. Even in the half-court, they didn’t protect the basket and were pummeled on the boards (41-28) and in points in the paint (56-18). Then they let Miami’s shooters get some confidence and the Heat knocked down 9 of 18 attempts from 3-point range.
It’s a recipe for getting blown out, South Florida-style.
The game was a little rough, but the Bulls are supposed to enjoy operating that way. The one flagrant foul came in the second quarter when Miami’s Chris Andersen was penalized for pushing Marco Belinelli from behind. This came seconds after Nazr Mohammed knocked down LeBron James on a screen.
“That’s the way it is. We can’t shy away from contact,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It usually comes down to will; your will and determination. The ball’s in the air, you’re going to get hit. That’s reality. That’s NBA basketball.”
The Bulls were within 42-38 after Butler’s 3-point play with 3:42 left in the second quarter.
Then things quickly fell apart.
Dwyane Wade drove the baseline for a dunk, Carlos Boozer was called for an offensive foul on what should have been an easy basket. Then James hit a 3-pointer, Wade finished a fastbreak dunk and Norris Cole drained two corner 3-pointers while Nate Robinson sagged into the lane defensively.
Miami’s lead was 55-41 at halftime and the Bulls didn’t answer the bell in the third quarter, quickly falling behind by 20 points and beyond.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were ejected in rapid fashion. Noah and James were each given technicals in the first half after getting tangled up. Then Noah complained from the bench about a foul call on Marquis Teague, got his second technical and was tossed.
“I just wanted to let the referee know how I felt about the game,” Noah said. “But I definitely deserved to get kicked out. We have to keep our composure and play better.”
Gibson got 2 technicals in a row a few seconds later and was still screaming at referee Scott Foster when Bulls security chief Eric Buck grabbed Gibson from behind and pulled him into the locker room.
“It should have ended in a better way, conducted myself in a better way, walked away,” Gibson said in the locker room. “We’re better than that. Including myself, we didn’t play ball the right way, we handled ourselves poorly, especially with referees. It’s out of frustration. You never want to get blown out in playoff basketball.”
Verbal tirades usually result in fines, not suspension.
So the Bulls can only hope they’re not even more short-handed by Friday.
Ÿ Follow Mike’s Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls and check out his All Bull blog at dailyherald.com.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.