MIAMI (Reuters) - Miami Heat bounced back from their series-opening loss to Chicago to thrash the Bulls 115-78 on Wednesday and level their Eastern Conference semi-final at 1-1.
The 37-point margin was the heaviest defeat the Chicago Bulls had suffered in a playoff game and the biggest ever post-season margin of victory for the Heat.
The Bulls upset a rusty Miami in Game One on Monday but the defending NBA champions responded with an aggressive opening quarter that turned into a masterclass, then a massacre.
Monday’s defeat had clearly provided the Heat with a wake-up call that resulted in a performance worthy of the defending champions.
“I think this was our first real adversity of the season, losing Game One at home was tough,” said Miami’s Dwyane Wade.
“We had to go back and look at ourselves in the mirror, look at each other in the eye and say ‘listen, what reason are we here for?’.
“I think we did a good job of coming out early in the game and setting the tone,” he added.
The margin of victory could have been even more emphatic given Miami led by 46 points with 8:16 remaining in the fourth quarter before resting their first choice players.
Most Valuable Player LeBron James, who had been restricted to two first half points in Game One, was back to near his best, shooting six of six in the first quarter and ending up with 19 points for the game, a number which didn’t reflect his influence on the outcome before he sat out the fourth quarter.
“People think he should dominate and score 40 every night,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
“If the game calls for it, he will. If it means he is going to make the right play by setting someone else up, or letting another guy make the play, he will. That’s his poise and understanding,” he said.
Ray Allen top scored for Miami with 21 points including ten of ten from the free throw line as the Heat bench scored a franchise record 55 points.
In a physical game, with a total of nine technical fouls, the Bulls had Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson ejected in the fourth quarter - any league ruling on fines or suspensions is expected on Thursday.
Noah, who faced some strong provocation from some in the Miami crowd, conceded the Bulls lost their composure as the game ran away from them.
“We had a lot of technical fouls. Yeah, I would call that not keeping our cool, not being very zen,” he said.
“We didn’t play well but it’s not the end of the world. It’s one to one and it is going to be a big game three in Chicago.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was clearly upset with the officials but said his team would have to handle the pressure better when they return to their own court.
“We got sidetracked and you can’t do that. We showed a lot of frustration ... you have to have poise under pressure.
“You come in here, you’re not going to get calls, that is the way it is, that’s reality, you can’t get wrapped up in that stuff. You have to stay focused.
“You can’t allow people to get you back on your heels. That has to be corrected.”
Editing by Ian Ransom