Bulls vs. Heat: Miami gets aggressive in game two, own the paint

USA TODAY Sports

Whoo boy. Like I said in my initial reaction, at least the Game 2 result makes more sense when trying to figure out this series logically. Thibsball has done such amazing things lately that the nonsensical was becoming normal, which frightens (if excites) me. But though this may have been a somewhat expected result, the degree at which the Heat imposed their will (and later, how the Bulls reacted) was a bit unsettling. It's just one game, yes, but what a game from the Heat.

The Bulls started out the game pretty well on offense. They were able to beat the Heat's swarming rotations with some of their spacing and passing, hallmarks of what this team has become in the wake of all the injuries: with Robinson, Belinelli, and Butler on the perimeter the Bulls are really a three-point heavy team. They started out hitting 3 of their first 5 from three, including two from Jimmy Butler in the exact same spot (right elbow extended). Joakim Noah hit his first 3 shots and an offensive board. Steve Kerr mentioned how the Bulls offense reminded him of the 2011 Mavs, things were going that well.

The troublesome thing was what happened on the other end of the floor as the Heat were able to match the aggression of the Bulls. And given their talent edge that really can't happen. LeBron James may have started out game 1 setting up teammates for open (bricked) threes, but in Game 2 he was going right to the rim. LeBron hit all 6 of his first quarter shots, including an unstoppable layup to end the quarter. Behind James, Miami already had 16 points in the paint in that quarter, plus Mario Chalmers hitting two first-quarter threes.

And in the second quarter, Jimmy Butler rested. After 3 straight games of 48 minutes, Butler finally went to the bench and the Heat had a precious few possessions with LeBron going up against a Chicago lineup of Teague/Belinelli/Cook/Taj/Nazr. Amazingly, that was not when the Heat pulled too far ahead, and by the time the starters had returned, those ragtag (the ragtagiest?) Bulls were still keeping the deficit under double-digits. Weathering LeBron's phenomenal play, the Bulls were junking up the game enough (especially with great transition defense) to where none of the MVP's teammates were helping much. Especially Dwayne Wade, whose awful first stretch included being blocked by the rim. Chris Bosh was also giving them close to nothing. It was a very physical and chippy 2nd quarter, with several techs, a flagrant, and both teams in the penalty before the quarter was half over, and the Bulls were still in it.

Then with 3:42 remaining in the half, the Heat went with Norris Cole and Shane Battier alongside Wade/James/Bosh, daring the Bulls to stay big. The Bulls attempt to run the offense through Carlos Boozer proved to be a disaster, as he went 0-3 with a turnover (Booz was 2/7 for the half with 6 jump shot attempts in another poor outing in this series). Worse yet, the long misses got the Heat in the open court where Cole hit two threes, Wade was able to score since he was wide open at the rim, and luckily a FirstHalf-ending layup attempt from James missed as the Heat were already up 14 at the horn.

Boozer hit a fadeaway to stop the 5-0 Miami run to start the second half, but the game was already on the brink. And soon after it was completely over. Perhaps due to some fatigue leading to poor rotations, plus the Heat simply playing better, they eviscerated the Bulls defense. Aided by a lot of running starts as the Bulls bricked jumper after jumper (Belinelli was 4-13 in the game, Nate 3-10, Cook 0-6), the Heat had 12 assists on their 13 field goals, 5 those passes coming from LeBron in often spectacular fashion. And after getting several dunks under their belt, even Wade and Bosh got going.

It was beyond over by the time the 3rd quarter ended (didn't get to resolve the big question of LeBron on Nate!), though nice to see Daequan Cook managed to do his ceremonial stepping out of bounds play for the game. The numbers were really ugly. It was a 30-15 margin for the third quarter, and at that point the Heat had a 42-12 edge on points in the paint, and a 13-0 edge in fast break points.

The Bulls turned it over too much, missed way too many shots, and worse yet couldn't get enough of the offensive rebounds of those misses. If that happens, the Heat can do things like this. But hopefully there will be more times in the near future where we're instead scratching our head at the Bulls discipline and effort narrowing the margin.

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