The bloodbath that has become the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls shifts to the Windy City for Game 3 Friday night.
After a testy Game 2 in Miami that saw the Heat annihilate the Bulls, 115-78, and saw both Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah of Chicago get tossed in pretty ugly fashion, the United Center will be ready for Game 3.
Whether some of the Bulls' injured pieces will be ready for Friday is another story.
The rumor du jour is that Derrick Rose may finally make his season debut on Friday night. The Bulls and Rose have been non-committal for a long time about Rose's availability, although he has been medically cleared for over two months.
The other two injured Bulls don't sound like they'll be ready to go for Game 3. Kirk Hinrich has been sidelined since Game 5 of their first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets with a calf issue.
Then, there's Luol Deng. Originally reported as the flu, Deng actually was tested for meningitis, then suffered serious side effects of a spinal tap.
"I couldn't control my body, really," admitted Deng, who said he lost 15 pounds through the ordeal. It was scary. Scary for me, scary for everyone that was around me. I've never seen anything like that. I never knew of a spinal tap before that. I didn't know the reaction or the side effects."
On Thursday, he participated as best he could in the team's shoot-around, but it didn't go well, making his availability for Friday doubtful.
"I tried to shoot a little bit and I struggled. I couldn't do it well," said Deng. "We'll see. It's really my first day out of the house and out of the hospital. I want to play, but I don't know what I can do. I haven't done anything. It really (stinks)."
So did the Bulls' performance in Game 2 Wednesday.
The team not only got blown out, but lost its cool. Chicago was assessed six technical fouls and Noah and Gibson were ejected. Gibson, in particular, left the floor in an ugly manner. When various media outlets showed highlights, Gibson's mouth had to be distorted. It was that clear how flowery the language was.
"We're better than that, including myself," Gibson said. "We play ball the right way. We handle ourselves accordingly with referees. This hardly happens to me. It was a sign of frustration, getting blown out in a playoff game on national TV."
Miami took a five-point lead after the first quarter, extended it to 14 at the half, then poured it on in the third and led by 29.
The Heat, for as great as they are, are not a physical team. But on Wednesday, they dictated the pace of the game and fought back a bit after Monday's disappointing home loss in Game 1.
During that setback, which cost the Heat home-court advantage, both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade chirped a little too frequently with officials.
"We felt that we did a little too much (complaining) last game," Wade acknowledged. "Instead of worrying about the game we were worried about other things."
They were focused in Game 2, especially James, who took the physical play to Noah and the other Chicago big men.
"I was just trying to make sure we kept our composure throughout everything that was going on and to understand that we were here to play a basketball game," James said. "We know it is going to be physical each and every minute. We're not going to shy away from that. We have to understand that we're here to try and win the game."
Ray Allen was Miami's high scorer in Game 2 with 21. James had 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds, while Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole all scored in double figures.
For the Bulls, Marco Belinelli led the way with 13. Noah and Nate Robinson were the only other Chicago players to crack the 10-point plateau.
The two teams split the two meetings in Chicago this season, but the Bulls' last victory at home, on March 27 ended the Heat's 27-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history.
Miami has lost five of its last six in Chicago.
Game 4 will be Monday night.