Game 2 between the Bulls and Heat saw 51 personal fouls, nine technical fouls, two ejections and a handful of scuffles between the two teams. And while that may lead to changes in the officiating tonight in Game 3, the Heat insists it won’t change their attitude or style of play.
“I’m just gonna come out tonight and do our gameplan, whatever the gameplan is, and see how it goes,” guard Dwyane Wade said. “We know it’s gonna be physical, we know it’s gonna be aggressive, that’s basketball — that’s Eastern Conference basketball, so you just don’t know.”
LeBron James, who picked up a technical foul and found himself in the middle of a scuffle with Joakim Noah early in the first half, said after 82 regular-season games and a first round win, habit have been formed that can’t be hidden simply because emotions begin to heat up.
“There’s nothing that you can try to recreate over the habits that you’ve built,” he said. “You make adjustments from game-to-game, but Game 1 was Game 1, Game 2 was Game 2 and now Game 3 is its own. So we have to understand that.”
Wade was the initial instigator in the chippy matchup Wednesday night, receiving a technical foul in the opening minutes after throwing the ball at Marco Belinelli after the Bulls’ guard fouled him on a fast break.
Perhaps wanting to come out aggressive after losing Game 1 at home, the Heat went on the offensive, turning the Bulls over 19 times and scoring 20 transition points in the eventual 115-78 win.
LeBron James, who scored 19 points and handed out nine assists in the Game 2 victory, said head coach Erik Spoelstra’s gameplan was to continue doing what helped the Heat to 66 regular-season wins. That means plenty of drives to the basket, aggressive defense and the occasional hard foul.
“It’s how we adjust to how the game is being reffed,” he said, “but at the end of the day we’re gonna play our game and we’re gonna be aggressive offensively, aggressive defensively and see what happens.”
One factor that will be different for Miami is the crowd. Though the Heat are 20-1 in their last 21 road games and sported a league-best 29-12 record away from the American Airlines Arena in the regular season, both Wade and LeBron James respect what the United Center atmosphere will bring.
“It’s called the Madhouse on Madison for a reason,” Wade said. “It gets loud. The fans are very passionate here in Chicago about their sports, especially their Chicago Bulls, so there’s gonna be a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, obviously from the team, so we just expect them to come out and play with what most teams play with at home, and a little bit more.”
The last time the Heat suffered a road loss was in Chicago, when the Bulls ended their 29-game winning streak on March 27. James also said agreed with Wade, saying the added intensity of a playoff game is something he looks forward to.
“Being able to play in this environment is great. I feel like they have some of the best fans, they get really excited about their Bulls, and as a competitor and as an opponent you live for these moments,” James said. “I get really excited for them.”
Though the Bulls are again without Kirk Hinrich (calf) and Luol Deng (illness), Wade said he and his teammates don’t foresee needing to make too many adjustments. Given the Bulls’ blue-collar style of play and Tom Thibodeau’s ability to plug-in whomever into specific roles, the gameplan shouldn’t change much despite not having two starters.
“You can plug in many guys and you kind of understand how they’re gonna play,” Wade said. “Thibs is not gonna throw too many monkey wrenches in it. He’s gonna play hard, he’s gonna make sure they grind it out and play physical. So we understand it doesn’t matter who’s in the Bulls jersey. They’re gonna play a certain way.”
Emotions have run high in both games, and with Joey Crawford as the lead official there are sure to be quick whistles again tonight. But don’t expect that to change the Heat’s mentality come tip-off.
“Each game is its own,” Wade said. “You just have to go out there and play and you have to be able to play whatever style, whichever way the game is going.”