The Miami Heat bounced back on Wednesday night, thrashing the Chicago Bulls by a score of 115-78 to even the Eastern Conference semifinals at one game apiece.
The final margin made the game the most lopsided playoff win the Heat had ever enjoyed, as well as the largest loss in Chicago's postseason history.
A chippy contest that saw LeBron James and Joakim Noah get into it early was one of the most physical in recent memory. From there on out, tempers flared as the Heat and Bulls scuffled on several occasions throughout the first half thanks to an exchange of hard fouls.
Although a physical contest ordinarily favors the Bulls, the Heat were able to overcome it and find a rhythm offensively.
A 13-3 run to end the first half saw Miami ahead by 14 at the break, with James contributing 19 points over the game's first 24 minutes.
With a comfortable lead, it was smooth sailing for the Heat in the second half. Miami's ball movement was much improved from Game 1, and four starters finished in double figures. They would outscore the Bulls, 30-15, in the third quarter, extending their lead to 29 after 36 minutes.
James led a Miami squad that shot 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. On the night, James finished with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, five rebounds, nine assists and three steals.
Dwyane Wade's jumper was off once again, but he was effective when cutting along the baseline or getting to the basket off the dribble. Wade contributed 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, working himself into a groove in the second half as the Heat were able to get out in transition more.
After scoring a game-high 27 points in Game 1, Nate Robinson scored 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting and found himself outplayed by the platoon of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, who combined to score 29 points.
Noah, who instigated much of the physicality, finished the night with 12 points and six rebounds, but was ejected in the fourth quarter after arguing a call from the bench. Taj Gibson wound up being ejected as well, and was fuming as he made his way to the locker room. A hefty fine could be in his future.
Just how physical was Game 2? In total, nine technical fouls and 51 personal fouls were called.
Miami looked a bit sluggish to start, but a more active James helped stabilize the Heat offense throughout the first quarter. After scoring just nine points through three quarters in Game 1, James dropped 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the first 12 minutes of Game 2. Not surprisingly, his first six looks all came at the rim.
In typical Chicago fashion, the Bulls were able to remain competitive early, using quick ball rotations to find open shooters in the corners and on the weak side. After one quarter of play, the Bulls were shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc.
Unfortunately, the offensive prosperity would end there for Chicago. The Bulls shot just 35.5 percent from the field on the night as they struggled to create offense with Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich unavailable once again.
Jimmy Butler put together another solid performance, scoring off the bounce and off the catch, and finished with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting (2-of-4 from three).
One final stat line of note: Ray Allen scored 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting (10-of-10 from the line) in 19 minutes. He finished a tidy plus-24 on the night.
Game 3 tips off Friday night at 8 p.m ET at the United Center in Chicago.
After his 27-point outing in Game 1, Robinson found himself being guarded by James early.
Miami's ability to get out and run ignited a much-improved offense from the onset.
LeBron and Noah's confrontation should have come as no surprise considering their history.
For the first time since Game 5 of the opening-round series against the Nets, Butler actually got a rest.
The Bulls' second unit is made up of a rather interesting cast of characters.
The NBA hasn't seen a series this physical in some time. Get excited, people.
This all happened before halftime, so you know it's the playoffs:
Cole was big for the Heat, knocking down a number of threes before the half. He finished with 18 points.
A major deviation from Game 1, the Heat dominated in the paint and on the break. Here are their numbers in both categories after three quarters:
Not only was Miami's offense firing on all cylinders, but its defense was sharp as well.