This is what playing with urgency looks like.
Knowing that another loss would send South Florida into a panic, the Miami Heat were prepared for a physical, chippy game.
They got one. And they responded.
Playing aggressively from the start, the Heat routed the Chicago Bulls 115-78 on Wednesday night, treating the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd to the most lopsided playoff win in team history. The 37-point defeat, in turn, was the Bulls’ worst postseason loss.
The Heat turned the game into garbage time in the third quarter, outscoring the Bulls 20-6 to start the quarter and opening a 75-47 lead.
The lead swelled to 46 points (104-58) with 8:27 remaining as both coaches started resting their starters for Friday’s Game 3 in Chicago with the conference semifinal series tied at a game each.
The Bulls imploded early in the fourth quarter when center Joakim Noah and forward Taj Gibson were ejected. The teams combined for nine technical fouls, two ejections and one flagrant foul.
“We did a pretty good job of just staying the course under the circumstances,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “We came in with the mind-set of being aggressive. With everything that was going on, we were able to keep our composure.”
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau was not pleased with the way his team cracked. The Bulls had six technical fouls.
“We got sidetracked, and you can’t do that,” he said. “So we allowed frustration to carry over to the next play. You have to have poise under pressure.
“You come in here, you’re not going to get calls, that’s it, that’s reality. You can’t get wrapped up in that stuff.”
Noah, the Bulls’ emotional leader, agreed.
“We had a lot of technical fouls. … I would call that not keeping your cool,” he said. “Not being very Zen.”
The Heat took full advantage, eclipsing their 35-point victory over Orlando in April 1997. The Bulls’ worst postseason loss had been by 26 points, most recently to Detroit in May 2007.
Still, the Bulls’ victory in the opener took home-court advantage away from the top-seeded Heat.
“We came here. We did our job,” Noah said. “We won a game. We got the home court.”
He said the rout didn’t hurt the Bulls’ confidence.
“We got punched in the mouth,” he said. “We’ll be back. We’ll be back in two days.”
Point guard Mario Chalmers had one of the Heat’s three technical fouls and got into it with Noah in the third quarter.
“A lot of those screens, I didn’t like; I told him about it,” Chalmers said. “We got guys who are going to get cheap shots every night — LeBron, D. Wade and (Chris Bosh). Us, we want to get a cheap shot back. Not necessarily a cheap shot back, but get a hit back if we can. We want to be aggressive.”
Ray Allen led the Heat with 21 points, most of those in the second half. James got Miami off to a strong start with all of his 19 points in the first half. He played just 12 minutes in the second half.
Backup point guard Norris Cole provided a much-needed spark, scoring 18 points, including consecutive 3-pointers to end the first half and help Miami build a 14-point lead at the break. He also spent most of the first half guarding Nate Robinson, who followed his 27-point effort in Game 1 with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
The Bulls shot 35.5 percent while the Heat hit 60 percent. More significantly, after being outrebounded by 14 in Game 1, Miami had a 41-28 advantage Wednesday.
The Heat welcomed Bosh to the series in the third quarter. After a 3-of-10 performance in Game 1 and a 1-of-4 start Wednesday, Bosh scored nine in the third quarter and finished with 13.
Wade’s technical foul 22 seconds into the game after he was shoved into the basket stanchion by his counterpart, shooting guard Marco Belinelli, set the tone.
“This is going to be a physical series,” Bosh said. “We’ve been talking about that since the beginning.”