In a game often stunted by referees whistles, the Heat withstood the Bulls' physical challenge, then unleashed a series of body blows that had the fat lady singing before the end of the third quarter.
The final scoreboard reading, 115-78, almost falls short of capturing the enormity of the Heat's epic Game 2 performance. And that's saying quite a bit, considering that the final tally pushed both of these clubs into the history books:
Miami just set two playoff records: worst loss margin in Bulls franchise history, and largest win margin in Heat franchise history (37 pts).— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) May 9, 2013
The Heat outshot the Bulls from the field (60.0 to 35.5), from the perimeter (50.0 to 39.1) and from the free-throw line (75.9 to 71.4). Chicago set a combative, physical tone to the contest and looked like they got more than they had bargained for.
Miami took the fight straight to the teeth of Chicago's defense and may well have left a few of them scattered on the American Airlines Arena floor. The Heat grabbed a plus-13 advantage on the glass (41-28) and poured in an eye-popping 56 points in the paint, compared with the Bulls 18.
The only thing potentially hurting on the Heat's side could be their wallets, though even the damage there may fall heavier on their conference rivals:
I'd be stunned if Stu Jackson doesn't generate $100K in fines off this game. But will anyone be suspended? Likely not.— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) May 9, 2013
The two teams were called for 51 personal fouls in the game. Seven different players drew technical foul calls (both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson eventually orchestrated early exits with four techs between them) and another committed the first flagrant foul of his 11-year career:
That is Chris Andersen's first ever career flagrant foul, regular season or Playoffs.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) May 8, 2013
With bodies dropping left and right, even analysts had reason to worry about getting too close to the action:
My mom just texted me: "Gettin dicey out there! Stay safe!" #momtexts— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) May 8, 2013
Believe it or not, this was actually a close contest for the first 20 minutes.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sputtered to a 2-of-9 start, leaving the MVP LeBron James to do most of the heavy lifting for Miami. The King, as he's been known as during his illustrious career, answered the bell with an efficient, productive start to his night:
Think LeBron wanted to be a little more aggressive early in Game 2? He's 6/6 from the field and has 13 points in 13 minutes.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) May 8, 2013
But with Miami largely-reduced to a one-man operation, even a bruised and battered Chicago club was able to hang around, as Jimmy Butler's AND1 layup trimmed Miami's lead to 42-38 with less than four minutes left in the first half.
But the Heat responded with the same flick of the switch they relied on so heavily during their 27-game winning streak in the regular season. Only this time, that flick carried more ferocity, and that light shined brighter than ever:
Heat on a 33-9 run.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) May 9, 2013
What gave Miami's game-breaking charge such a resounding effect, though, were the players who orchestrated that drive. Or, rather, the one player who traded his scoring role for that of a distributor:
Heat outscored Bulls 30-15 in third quarter and LeBron didn't have a single point. Did have five assists in quarter.— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) May 9, 2013
Wade, Bosh and Mario Chalmers—all three of which were non-factors in Chicago's 93-86 Game 1 win—came to life in the third quarter. The trio poured in Miami's first 22 points of the period, shooting a combined 10-of-14 in the process.
The Heat's 14-point halftime lead grew to 21 by the mid-point of the third quarter, then up to 31 on a Ray Allen triple with just over 30 seconds left in the period.
Miami opened the fourth quarter on a 12-0 run, aided by the three free throws awarded for Noah's second technical foul and both of Gibson's. But the Heat didn't ease up on the dagger at all, rather twisting the blade at every opportunity:
It's 103-58. And the Heat bench is still fistpumping. They want this to hurt.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 9, 2013
At the end of the day, this win means nothing more than Chicago's victory on Monday night—perhaps even less, considering the Bulls were able to swipe home-court advantage in the process.
But there were signs that this was, indeed, more than just a single victory.
Even while dishing out heaping amounts of praise on this Heat team for its dominant regular-season showing, analysts yearned for the day when they'd actually see this club commit to 48 minutes of suffocating defense and continuous offensive assaults.
We saw that on Wednesday night. Miami's athletic advantage had never been so glaring.
The Heat coughed up just as many turnovers as the Bulls (17), yet negated the impact of their own errors (seven points allowed) while making the most of the Bulls' (28 points scored off turnovers). They dominated the interior without a natural post scorer on their roster.
The Big Three produced a series of headaches for Tom Thibodeau's Bulls, combining for 47 points on 57.6 percent shooting, 17 assists and 13 rebounds. Their support staff, however, may be to blame if Chicago pharmacies are sold out of Advil by the morning.
Norris Cole was brilliant, tallying 18 points (on 7-of-9 shooting, 4-of-4 from three), six boards and two assists, while helping take the wind out of Nate Robinson's sails (11 points, 3-of-10, four turnovers).
Allen gave the defending champs another scoring lift off the bench, pouring in 21 points in 19 minutes. Chalmers added his own scoring touch to the starting five (11 points, 4-of-8), while taking care of the basketball (four assists against one turnover) and bolstering Miami's glasswork (four boards) in 18 minutes of action.
And still, this may not have been Miami at its best. Chris Andersen was plagued by foul trouble, and Shane Battier continued to struggle with his shot.
Whatever boost the rest of the playoff field felt after Monday night was ripped apart, and then some, by Miami's dominant win Wednesday night.
This is the Heat's championship to lose, and if this game was any indication, they have no intentions of letting it slip away.