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Technically speaking, Bulls acted like petulant children

Updated: May 9, 2013 3:35PM



MIAMI — If you embarrass a team as good as the Heat in a playoff game, you will pay for it the next time. That’s inevitable — perhaps not death-and-taxes inevitable, but close.

So there was going to be a comeuppance for the Bulls after their shocking road victory over Miami in Game 1 of this second-round series. You knew it. I knew it. It was just a matter of what form it would take and how the Bulls would respond.

It took the form of a 115-78 victory for the Heat on Wednesday.

The Bulls responded to the 37-point blowout by getting T’d up so much they could have been Titleists.

There’s a difference between being aggressive and being stupid. The Bulls were aggressive early in the game when Miami was intent on setting a physical tone. They stepped into stupid territory late in the game when they let their emotions get the better of them.

“When the ball’s in the air, you’ve got to fight,’’ said coach Tom Thibodeau, clearly unhappy with his team’s comportment. “It usually comes down to will — your will and determination when the ball’s in the air. You’re going to get hit. That’s reality. It’s NBA basketball.’’

It was the worst playoff loss in Bulls history, and they didn’t handle it with much dignity. It was reminiscent of a hockey blowout in which the losing team starts a bunch of fights at the end of the game or of a baseball game in which the pitcher, having given up back-to-back home runs, plunks the next hitter.

You didn’t see LeBron James losing his cool in Game 1.

The refs called six technicals on the Bulls, who left their composure in the locker room before the game.

“When you’re giving up points at the free-throw line like that, yeah, I would call that not keeping your cool, not being very Zen,’’ said Joakim Noah, who got kicked out of the game in the fourth quarter and could get suspended for stepping off the bench and onto the floor.

Can Game 3 on Friday be played in an octagon? The flurry of technical fouls didn’t set basketball back, but it will set Taj Gibson back some money for his verbal abuse of referee Scott Foster. He and Noah, no pacifist himself, had to be escorted to the locker room.

The referees didn’t do a good job of handling this game, especially in the first half, when emotions were running high. They looked like they wanted to play boot-camp sergeants. But it doesn’t matter how the referees carried themselves. You don’t give into that, even if the Heat’s Chris Andersen seems intent on causing turmoil.

(To the fans who want Derrick Rose and his surgically repaired knee to return in this physical, chippy series: You’re crazy.)

The depleted Bulls are the definition of “plucky,’’ and their pluck has taken them to places many of us never thought we’d see this season. But pluck doesn’t stand much of a chance against James in a game like this. We all want it to, but it doesn’t. He had 19 points at halftime.

The good news is that the Bulls did what they had to do here, winning one of the two games. It’s easy to lose sight of that in all the emotion of Game 2.

The craziest part? That the volatile Nate Robinson wasn’t at the epicenter of the Bulls’ meltdown.

James had talked earlier in the day about guarding Robinson. My first thought was, if that happens, things could get out of control.

But the showdown never happened, and Robinson struggled with Mario Chalmers on him. It wasn’t as if Robinson was a noncombatant — he did get a technical in the second quarter — but he was more of a nonfactor than anything.

It was hard to find any Bull who played well. Carlos Boozer was invisible, so Thibodeau played him only 23 minutes, 43 seconds. The Heat outrebounded the Bulls 41-28.

Miami clearly wanted to send a message. On the first offensive play of the game, Udonis Haslem knocked a driving Robinson to the floor with a hard foul. Later, Dwyane Wade threw the ball at Marco Belinelli after a hard foul and got a technical.

No one is saying the Bulls should have backed down. But they looked like petulant children who weren’t getting their way.

“We’re better than that, me included,’’ Gibson said. “We play ball the right way.’’

They sure didn’t in Game 2.



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