Intensity, Physicality Shift To Chicago’s Court

CHICAGO – Symbolically at least, the changeover crew at the United Center should have left the hockey boards up for Game 3 of the Chicago Bulls’ Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat Friday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Given how significantly the intensity and physical play were dialed up for Game 2 in Miami – a 115-78 Heat victory that not only stuck the Bulls with the most lopsided loss in their NBA playoff history but punked them, too – the shift to Chicago’s home ice, er, court figures to ratchet up again.

“Because of the technicals and ejections, there might be a perception it’s going above and beyond basketball – it’s not,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have two physical teams. Type A personalities.”

Two alpha dogs that don’t particularly like each other. “They don’t like us. We don’t like them,” LeBron James said. “We have to carry that same aggression, that same attitude into Game 3.”

The Bulls got worse than they gave in Game 2, from the scoreboard, from the stats sheet (pounded 56-18 in the paint, coughing up 28 points on 19 turnovers), from the referees (six technical fouls and ejections of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson) and from Miami in general in first strikes and aggressiveness. The Heat presumably won’t show up Friday night with Birdwoman – the snarling blonde matron who displayed her singular talent in Noah’s face – but they will have Birdman Andersen, as well as a roster full of defending champs and first-time ring seekers eager to meet their first serious road challenge of the postseason (Milwaukee, for two quick games in Round 1, was embarrassingly hospitable in every way).

Meanwhile, the Bulls — already undermanned without Luol Deng (illness), Kirk Hinrich (bruised calf) and Derrick Rose (knee rehab) – will have to calibrate their physical play; they don’t have the manpower to absorb needless ejections, technicals or personal fouls. They will, however, have crowd muscle in their packed, raucous arena.

For fans at the United Center, upraised middle fingers are part of the daily commute, so they’ll be antsy to up the ante or, at least, the decibels. And as far as that league-wide trend this season of Heat “hate” dissipating – in apparent appreciation of James’, Dwyane Wade‘s and other Heat players’ excellence, along with more folks in Miami garb infiltrating more buildings – let’s just say Chicagoans never got that memo.

It’s a potentially combustible mix: a road team determined to not get pushed around the way it did last time in the UC (the end of Miami’s 27-game winning streak), some cranky hosts ready to assert home court, a boisterous, Friday-night crowd primed to play some role in the series and three referees bringing fresh eyes to a pivotal contest toting two games’ worth of baggage.

Somewhere within that Chicago will have to find ways to protect the rim better – a 41-28 rebounding disparity and no blocks/few altered shots against the Heat’s heavy interior attack proved fatal, even before all the jawing and theatrics at ref Scott Foster and his crew.

“I don’t want to put it on the officials,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “If it doesn’t go your way, you can’t allow it to impact your next play. You can’t allow it to get you sidetracked so you don’t do your job. You have to have the ability to do your job all the time. You have to have great concentration.”

One area of concentration for Miami after Game 1 was Nate Robinson, the fireplug Chicago guard who was a reasonable Rose facsimile that night (27 points, nine assists, 10 free throws). Heavy defensive attention from James never was needed, but the Heat’s own point guards and other defenders made life more miserable for Robinson. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting and four turnovers to two assists.

“They’re the world champions for a reason and they played like it,” Robinson said. “We just flat-out sucked.”

At the other end, Miami had to be please that it played fast, hit 3-point looks that clanged off in Game 1 and shook some extra rust off Wade, who scored eight of his 17 points in the decisive 30-15 third quarter. He shot 7-11, hitting his final six after a 1-for-5 start.

In personnel, the series grinds on as a mismatch – Miami boasting three of the top league’s top 20 players (and No. 1 overall), Chicago missing three guys from its preferred eight-man rotation. In intangibles, the Bulls do have the homecourt edge now, though United Center was where the Heat snuffed Chicago’s postseason in Game 5 of the 2012 East finals.

“It’s more than just not liking them,” Noah said. “It’s just two teams that want to win.”

So expect contact. Expect booing. Expect basketball. Expect whistles. Expect whining. Expect double-digit leads and comebacks. Expect single-finger salutes, too – right now the series stands 1-1-1.

17 Comments

  1. Bulls Fan says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the HEAT wins the next two games. But what I am disappointed is with the clear biased officiating in favor of the HEAT. Even the media during last game commented on Noah’s fault on Bosh which was clear not at all and Belinelli’s 3 point with HEAT’s hand surely fault. This was a tip of the iceberg for the BULLS to derail from there. It was clear the NBA wants the HEAT to win because it doesn’t make sense for the underdog BULLS to go to the next round. It won’t bring as much revenue to the franchise. Regardless of the outcome, I am already proud of the BULLS for their accomplishments. For the BULLS, just play your last 2 games as they were your last games of the season (likely) and good thinks will happen.

  2. Miami Heat fan says:

    At the end Miami heat wins the series!!!

  3. Jack says:

    lot of CRYING BABIES CHICAGO FANS HERE!! hahaha go out and ask yourselves, is it so possible to win against 4 future HOFamers? and being undermanned against them? is it possible?..ill answer you?..its POSSIBLE, really POSSIBLE!! by how?..by playing physical and extend that little expectations into something that might hurt other players!! thats it, that is Tibs thought to these guys because they are desperate enough to win against the world champs,..and fans are desperate where to blame,..

  4. xavierserranoa says:

    the game was a heated game as a sports fan it shouldn’t be weird that sometimes referee might favor a team or player it happens not saying that it should. Also unless is something that the referee does constantly it is just human error. They need to be constantly making calls and making sure that is the right one its a hard job. There is no reason to think the nba might be putting there hands in it (not saying it isn’t its a possibility) im jiust saying try to be a good fan and enjoy the game be humble when you speak to reason to be violent or tear each other apart in sports anything can happen. as long as two teams are playing anyone can win. GO HEAT!

  5. raul says:

    cannot wait for tonight’s game……

  6. badbrad71 says:

    My wish is that the officials play little to no role in this game. The crowd should be incredible especially if the Bulls can stay in it. The Bulls don’t look to have the horses to get up double digits if MIA comes out focused. Should be an entertaining playoff game no matter the outcome.

  7. yup says:

    In game one Chicago didn’t have the calls go their way, just like Memphis didn’t have the calls go their way in game one either. In game two it was more of the same, but Memphis found a way to win that one. Chicago never had a chance in game two. I mean name of the game is consistency. Because you can not be one hundred percent right when it comes to officiating. No calls and bad calls are bound to happen. However if it is a foul on one end it has to be a foul on the other. When it comes to certain teams and players, that isn’t the case however. OKC and Miami are allowed to foul a lot. The teams that play against them have to play above and beyond to compete. One of the reasons OKC can’t beat Miami. If you need the refs to succeed, you can’t beat a team who will get as much if not more love than you. In any case, shame guys like Thibs don’t get rewarded for not bad mouthing the refs, meanwhile other guys get rewarded for complaining and crying.

    • Nope says:

      You saying the calls didn’t go the bulls’ way in game 1 doesn’t make it true. Also, can you give me even three plays where the heat were getting the benefit? The bulls love to get physical. They lost because they’re not used to another team being just as physical with them. I love how you mention thibs not bad mouthing the officials but conveniently forget all the things Gibson said. The bulls won game 1. They lost game 2. Stop crying about the officials. Those fouls were obvious

  8. HT- Heat fan says:

    I wonder why people whin.

  9. RR says:

    I don’t the Bulls will be treated like the home team by the referees. The referees all seams to want Miami to win another ring, they make very few correct calls when Lebron James is involved, the calls always go against the other guy.

    • KunJay says:

      Yes that’s why the calls went against the other guy in Game 1….Smh You got destroyed in game 2, come ready to play tonight and hopefully you won’t lose by 30.

    • Toro says:

      Espacially in game 1 I had totally opposite feelings, there were many calls in favor of Bulls

    • NBAFan says:

      The Refs are really bad. I don’t see any reason that battier football like tackle on Noah, and chalmer’s arm axe hit on Noah’s neck are not fragrant fouls. They can still stay on the court. That shows the refs and NBA pick their champ already.

    • ThreePointer says:

      The Bulls came out in game 1 and were physical and suceeded. Game 2 they attempted again but got punched in the mouth and were run out of the building. But like how you use the refs as an excuse.

    • Silence I'll kill u says:

      Did u watch the game or u just blind ignorant bulls fan? The bulls fouling them, holding even in fast break thats why the call is given. Blown out victory. The heat just play better on that day. Thibs gameplan is to get physical, greater aggression.. Dirty aggression. Smh Crickets!

    • Eli. Odell J. says:

      can y’all all calm down?
      let them 24 players fight it out on the court