Cue the Derrick Rose storyline. Again.
That was all that was left of the Chicago Bulls after they endured a 115-78 defeat administered by the Heat in Wednesday night’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Bulls won the opener Monday night in a contest short on style — just how they like it, in other words — and wanted more of the junkyard stuff in the return road engagement in AmericanAirlines Arena.
They got it.
And the Heat, having accepted the invitation for nastiness, roughed up the Bulls early before running all over them late.
It started with Udonis Haslem pounding Nate Robinson to the ground on a drive to Chicago’s hoop on the game’s first possession, and continued with Marco Belinelli slamming Dwyane Wade into the basket support on Miami’s subsequent possession.
There were five technical fouls and one flagrant foul assessed … by halftime.
The Heat’s lead was 55-41 by then, and what remained was decoration.
There were four more technicals, and Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson of the Bulls were ejected.
But now speculation has spiked regarding the possible Friday night Game 3 return of Bulls superstar point guard Rose, who has not played this season as he recovers from knee surgery for an ACL injury suffered a year ago.
A report by TNT during Wednesday’s game speculated that Rose’s return is a possibility.
“I can’t say nothing right now,” Rose said when asked about the matter on his way to the team bus after the game.
A source close to the team said after the loss that “the Bulls certainly know nothing about it” in reference to the report.
Rose has practiced for two months, and has been cleared for quite some time to return to competition.
The Bulls also have been without guard Kirk Hinrich (calf) and forward Luol Deng (illness) in the series.
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau was dismissive of the discussion and said the lopsided loss would not be a factor in the timetable for the return of Rose, Hinrich or Deng.
“It’s separate,” he said. “They’re day-to-day. They have to focus on their rehab. Whoever we have, we are more than capable of getting the job done.”
But it’s easy to imagine the reaction in the United Center if Rose, especially, returns. There’s also no doubt that the Bulls will try to feed off memories of the Game 2 loss, which turned into an embarrassment witnessed by Rose and Hinrich from the bench.
Noah, in fact, was almost defiant in anticipation of what comes next.
“There’s a big Game 3 back in Chicago. We’re very excited about the opportunity,” Noah said. “We’re not going anywhere.”
“It’s not the end of the world. Let’s go back to Chi.”
The former Gator admitted he deserved to be kicked out, and said he would call it “not keeping your cool, not being very Zen.”
Chicago all but quit long before the finish. The Bulls, already short-handed, went to the deep end of their bench to complete the game.
The pertinent point is that the top-seeded, reigning champion Heat routed the fifth-seeded Bulls by brawling with them and then flying above them.
The series thus tilted back toward its expected axis with the next two games in Chicago, although the Bulls have taken the home-court advantage.
Miami, however, was dominant in the second engagement. The Heat had six players in double figures in scoring, and shot 60 percent from the floor.
Rose can’t fix everything that needs fixing from the miserable Bulls’ performance, but his return would make things interesting.
The smart money still has him as doubtful.
But that won’t stop the speculation, or even slow it down.