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Silver lining in historic loss to Heat: Bulls still hold home-court edge

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Updated: May 9, 2013 9:56AM



MIAMI — It’s not as if the Bulls didn’t know a storm was coming.

They spent the 48 hours leading up to Wednesday night’s Game 2 boarding up the holes in the defense, going over contingency plans on offense, even acknowledging to the media that they knew it was coming.

All that preparation, and then it hit.

Nine combined technical fouls handed out, a flagrant 1 foul and two ejections in Bulls big men Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson resulted in the worst playoff loss in the Bulls’ history.

The Miami Heat tied the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series by dismantling the Bulls 115-78.

But as bad as it looked, and felt, Noah offered up a friendly reminder. The series was still tied, and the home-court advantage that top-seeded Miami had enjoyed three days ago, well, that’s no longer there.

“We came here, we did our job, we won a game,’’ Noah said afterward. “We’ve got the home court. We’re a confident group, we got punched in the mouth [Wednesday night], but we’ll be back, we’ll be back in two days. That game isn’t going anywhere. The ball is going to go up and we’ll be there.’’

The problem is which team will be there?

The one that walked into the American Airlines Arena on Monday, and swaggered their way out with a 93-86 shocker? Or the mess that was Bulls basketball on Wednesday? The Bulls were outrebounded 41-28, outmuscled by a smaller lineup and possibly could be down a few bodies after Noah and Gibson were tossed.

With 10:13 left in the game and down 94-56, Noah got off the bench after a foul was called on Marquis Teague, stepping on the court to make his case with official Scott Foster. Seconds after he was ejected, Gibson got into it with Foster. He was handed a technical foul, verbally went after Foster and had to be restrained by teammates as he, too, was ejected.

Both are going to be lighter in the pocketbook, and both will have to cross their fingers that it’s not worse.

“Just frustrated,’’ Gibson said, admitting he lost his composure. “I shouldn’t have lost my cool. I should’ve handled it a better way and conducted myself better or walked away.’’

Noah agreed.

“We have to keep our composure and play better,’’ Noah said. “That’s the bottom line.’’

Especially against a Heat team that again seemed interested, after sleepwalking through Game 1.

“Game 1, we just didn’t match their physicality,’’ Heat guard Ray Allen said. “We started this game, they hit and we hit.’’

The Heat hit more, and when it counted.

With Luol Deng (illness after a spinal tap) and Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf) out, LeBron James set the tone against Jimmy Butler in the first quarter, scoring 12 of his 19 points by driving on Butler or posting him up. James then became a distributor the rest of his game, while teammates like Chris Andersen became enforcers, throwing elbows and shoves whenever they could at Bulls players.

“We got sidetracked and you can’t do that,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So we allowed frustration to carry over to the next play. You come in here, you’re not going to get calls. That’s the way it is, that’s reality.’’

After being outscored 30-15 in the third quarter, reality was the game was over. Now, it’s up to Thibodeau to get them ready for Game 3.

“Study the film, make the corrections, get ready for the next one,’’ Thibodeau said. “Nothing changes.’’



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