(MCT) MIAMI — The Miami Heat are back in the fight, landing blows both physical and demoralizing Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls.
In a game filled with technical fouls, trash talk, shoving and eventually the fourth-quarter ejections of the Bulls' Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, the Heat seized control at the end of the second quarter and rolled to a 115-78 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"All the toughness areas," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "our guys came in with a tougher disposition tonight."
It is the largest playoff victory in franchise history, eclipsing a 35-point victory over the Orlando Magic in the first round in 1997. It also was the largest postseason loss in Bulls history.
"They were more aggressive, more determined. We were back on our heels," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We've got to have more fight, more determination. They're a great team. You've got to keep coming for 48 minutes."
Now even at 1-1 in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series, the Heat began to remove some of the sting from Monday's Game 1 93-86 home loss, a loss even harder to fathom after Wednesday's dominance.
The next challenge is regaining the homecourt advantage earned with their league-best 66-16 regular season.
"We're still in the hole. We know that," Spoelstra said. "It doesn't matter about the score tonight."
Games 3 and 4 are Friday and Monday nights in Chicago at the United Center.
"We're capable of much better," Thibodeau said, "and we're going to have to be a lot better."
With forward LeBron James making his first six shots and guard Dwyane Wade his last six, the Heat displayed an intensity rarely seen, or needed, in recent weeks.
"We played our game tonight," James said. "We attacked both offensively and defensively.
"We just came in with a mindset to be aggressive, attack, play our game."
Of the overall temperature of the game, Spoelstra said, "I don't think it was necessarily out of hand, other than emotions. I don't think it was physically out of hand."
James closed with 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds, with Wade adding 15 points, five assists and three rebounds. Both were pulled as tempers began to flare on the Bulls' side of ledger.
"Losing Game 1 at home, we had to go back and look at each other in the mirror," Wade said. "Tonight, I thought we did a good job of coming out at the beginning of the game and setting the tone.
"This is a Chicago-Miami series, two teams that hang their hat on winning the game defensively. I thought we came out with the right mindset."
Heat center Chris Bosh also stepped up after an uneven start, closing with 13 points and five rebounds, playing Noah to a standoff.
And when energy was required, it was provided off the bench by Ray Allen, who scored 21 points in an effort that included 10-of-10 foul shooting, and Norris Cole, whose two 3-pointers at the end of the second quarter were part of a 13-3 half-ending run the Heat later expanded to 33-9 in the third quarter.
Guard Marco Belinelli led the Bulls with 13 points.
"We didn't play well," Noah said. "But it's not the end of the world. It's 1-1 and it's going to be a big Game 3 in Chicago.
"We feel like we're capable of playing a lot better."
What comes next_a replay of the Game 1 competitiveness or another dose of Heat dominance_could come amid a rewritten series storyline, with word that sidelined Bulls guard Derrick Rose could make his season debut in Game 3.
Rose, who has been out since his devastating knee injury in the first round of last season's playoffs, again was a spectator Wednesday, again going through rigorous pregame shooting drills.
Also out were Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, who has been dealing with a balky calf, and Chicago forward Luol Deng, who has been dealing with the aftereffects of a spinal tap. Both are expected to return at some point during the series.
"They're day to day," Thibodeau said of the trio. "They've got to focus on their rehab. The guys we have, they've got to focus on getting the job done."
While Noah and Gibson likely didn't do enough with their fourth-quarter tirades to merit further sanction beyond possible fines, it was the first playoff ejection for both.
"I just wanted him to know how I felt about the game," Noah said of approaching the referees, which led to his second technical foul and ejection. "But, I definitely deserved to get kicked out."
Gibson, like Noah, was called for his second technical foul with 10:13 to play.
"I have to do better," Gibson said of expressing his anger to the officials. "I can't lose my composure like that."
The tone was set early in a wild first half that included five technical fouls, one flagrant foul, one double-foul and those 3-point daggers by Cole. In all, nine technical fouls were called, matching the most in the NBA playoffs over the past 18 years.
"We didn't play well defensively," Noah said. "It's one game, and let's go back home to Chi."
With feisty moments early on from James, Wade, Noah, Nate Robinson and Chris Andersen, the temperature was raised significantly at AmericanAirlines Arena, with lead referee Scott Foster taking a no-nonsense approach with his officiating.
James was in attack mode from the outset, shooting 6 of 6 in the first quarter, with all 12 of his points in the paint. It was the first time in his career that James made sat least six shots without a miss in an opening quarter of a playoff game.
James' first miss did not come until a wayward 19-foot jumper with 8:54 left in second quarter, after his 6-of-6 start.
James' hot start helped offset a 1-of-5 open by Wade, who then made his next two shots, with hard attacks on the rim.
The Heat closed the first quarter with seven fastbreak points, after recording nine in all of Game 1. They had 10 by the intermission.
A 9-0 run allowed the Heat to push to a 21-15 lead late in the first quarter. They went into the second period up 25-20.
While James made all six of his first-quarter shots, Bosh missed all three of his shots in the opening period, with Noah again dominating that matchup early, with eight points in the opening period, before Andersen entered to start the second quarter.
Heat guard Mario Chalmers converted a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers, but also was forced to the bench with his second foul midway through the opening period.
Chalmers' first 3-pointer pushed him ahead of Tim Hardaway into the Heat's all-time postseason lead.
"Last game," Chalmers said, "we felt like they took it to us and we didn't fight back. We wanted to come out, set the tone and be aggressive."
Bulls forward Jimmy Butler was forced to the bench in the second quarter with his second foul, the first time he took a seat in four games.
"We got punched in the mouth tonight," Noah said. "We got the home court. We'll be back. We'll be back in two days. That game isn't going anywhere."