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MIAMI – Carlos Boozer said the Chicago Bulls were feeling cheated. Mario Chalmers said the Miami Heat thought they were getting too many cheap shots.
Tensions and emotions are now nearly as high as the stakes.
In other words, this Bulls-Heat series is just getting started.
Ray Allen scored 21 points in less than 19 minutes off the bench, LeBron James scored all 19 of his points in the first half and the Heat led by as many as 46 on the way to a wild, whistle-filled 115-78 win over the Bulls in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup on Wednesday night. The series is tied at a game apiece and shifts to Chicago for Game 3 on Friday night.
"We did a pretty good job of just staying the course," James said. "We just came in with a mindset to be aggressive and play our game. With everything that was going on, we just tried to keep our composure."
They did that last part with ease.
Of course, when you're winning by 46, it's easy to stay composed — though for most of the first half, a runaway game seemed highly unlikely.
The first hard foul of the night came 12 seconds into the game, when Udonis Haslem collided with Nate Robinson and sent the diminutive Bulls guard crashing to the hardwood. Marco Belinelli retaliated with a healthy smack against Dwyane Wade nine seconds later, and the Heat guard picked up the first of nine technical fouls in the game.
Six of those technicals went against the Bulls, including two each for Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, who both departed angrily with 10:13 remaining. At least one fan directed an obscene gesture toward Noah as he left, and television cameras caught Gibson using plenty of inappropriate language before he retreated out of sight for the rest of the night.
"This hardly happens to me," Gibson said. "It's a sign of frustration. We just got blown out. You don't want to get blown out."
Robinson and Marquis Teague also got technicals for Chicago. For Miami, Wade, James and Chalmers all got assessed technicals, and Chris Andersen was called for a flagrant foul.
"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."
Really, they couldn't play much worse. The numbers were beyond dreadful.
The Bulls shot just under 36 percent, while Miami connected on 60 percent of its shots. Chicago was outrebounded 41-28, a big shift from Game 1, when the Bulls were dominant on the glass. And other stats were unfathomably bad: The Bulls were outscored by huge margins in bench points (55-25), fast-break points (20-2) and points off turnovers (28-7).
Still, the Bulls got a split in Miami. Home-court advantage in this series is theirs, and that surely will help them turn the page quickly from Wednesday's debacle.
"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."
Norris Cole scored 18 points for Miami, which got 15 from Wade and 13 from Chris Bosh. Belinelli scored 13 for the Bulls, who got 12 from Noah and 11 from Robinson.
By the time the game was 15½ minutes old, there were five technicals called, though nothing really escalated to the point of being out of hand — it was more mouth-running than anything else. And with 3:42 left in the half, Chicago's Jimmy Butler converted a sensational, acrobatic layup while being fouled, adding the free throw to cap a three-point play that cut Miami's lead to 42-38.
Game 1 was a grind-it-out affair that Chicago dominated late on its way to victory. At that point, Game 2 was looking like it would go to the wire as well.
Not even close.
Butler's highlight-reel play was officially the last highlight for the Bulls all night. Over the next 19 minutes — barely more than a quarter and a half — the Heat would outscore the Bulls 62-20.
Yes, 62-20. And James, the now four-time MVP, scored only three of those 62 points. Everyone was getting in the act.
"We are going to have to fight for every win," Wade said. "And tonight, we did a good job in the beginning of the game of setting the tone."
By the time the barrage was over, it was 104-58 Miami, and that happened not long after Chalmers got a technical in the third quarter, then Noah and Gibson earned their ejections early in the fourth.
"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."
Oh, they got calls, just not the calls they wanted. Noah made sure the officiating crew knew his thoughts before he departed.
"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, as replays of a borderline goaltending call that he thought should have gone Chicago's way were shown.
"I don't blame Gibson," Kerr said on-air as Gibson left the court.
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.
"We've played them now six times this year," Allen said. "And each game has been more physical than the next."
NOTES: 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. ... Miami's biggest postseason win had been a 35-point victory over Orlando on April 24, 1997. ... Allen was 10 for 10 from the foul line and hasn't missed in 25 attempts from there in the playoffs. ... The Bulls' worst playoff loss had been 26 points, against Cleveland on May 21, 1992.