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Bulls fly by Heat in Game 2
Two hours before the game, Ben Gordon strolled down a United Center hallway, his pinstriped suit immaculate, his pocket handkerchief protruding just so.
Complimented on his attire, a small smile creased his face.
But then he held up the basketball shoes he carried in his hand—so as not to clash with his outfit, of course.
"It's time to go to work," Gordon said.
You might say Gordon was dressed to kill.
His third-quarter sharpshooting and Luol Deng's fourth-quarter fireworks put a major hurt on the Heat as the Bulls cruised to a 107-89 victory Tuesday night before a raucous sellout crowd of 23,097.
Only four teams in NBA playoff history have lost a best-of-seven series after winning the first two games at home.
And the 2006-07 Bulls have no designs on repeating the infamous feat of their 2004-05 counterparts.
"I know overconfidence isn't going to be a problem," coach Scott Skiles cracked.
Gordon, who shot 11 of 19, was just as on the mark with what his memory of that collapse to the Wizards means for the remainder of this series.
"The last thing you want to do is relax," he said. "You want to play like you're down 2-0."
Gordon spearheaded the game-changing third-quarter run and scored 11 of his 27 points in the quarter.
And Deng added 14 of his 26 points in the fourth as the Bulls emptied their bench with 78 seconds to play.
Shaquille O'Neal finished with a quiet 17 points and eight rebounds. And Dwyane Wade, covered tightly throughout, managed 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting.
The blowout might reverberate all the way until Friday night's tipoff for Game 3.
Then again, it might not.
"We have to be mature enough to understand Miami has been in this situation," Deng said. "We have to keep playing aggressively."
If the Bulls continue the ball movement that led to 28 assists and 55.1 percent shooting in this game, including 11 of 17 three-pointers, that might not be a problem.
It's becoming clear this series is less about matchups and more about movement.
Simply put, if the Bulls continue pushing the ball up the court—they had a 10-0 edge in fast-break points at one point—and flawlessly executing their draw-and-kick style, it won't matter if the Heat changes from having Wade guard Deng and Eddie Jones shadow Gordon.
"We came out in the third and really got the ball moving and were able to step into some threes and pull away," Skiles said.
Indeed, the Bulls never were hotter than in a 16-3 run that opened the second half—and a 16-point lead.
The Bulls sank seven of their first nine shots, with Gordon scoring five in the spurt.
"I just wanted to be aggressive," Gordon said.
"We didn't have a great lead so I wanted to come out and set the tone. My teammates did a good job of finding me."
Wade scored eight points in an 11-4 run to open the fourth quarter and help the Heat pull within 89-82.
But Deng, who scored the Bulls' first eight points in the quarter, hit back-to-back jumpers for breathing room.
"He didn't let his 1-for-6 start throw him off," Skiles said.
Speaking of starts, Skiles had talked to his team about withstanding an early onslaught from O'Neal and Wade, who both were plagued by foul trouble in Game 1.
When the veteran and no-nonsense crew of Steve Javie, Luis Grillo and Ken Mauer called Ben Wallace for a foul on O'Neal 18 seconds after tipoff, Skiles' words seemed prophetic.
But relentless defense helped the Bulls force a staggering 14 turnovers from that powerful pair.
The Bulls led 31-21 after the first quarter thanks to a Reggie Miller-esque seven points in 11.6 seconds from Andres Nocioni.
He first joined Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc as the only Bulls to make four-point plays when he swished a three-pointer from the corner and was fouled by James Posey—a Bulls fan's dream scenario.
After Tyrus Thomas' strip of Wade, Nocioni added a three-pointer at the quarter buzzer, practically separating his shoulder with the ferocity of his ensuing fist pump.
Not that the Bulls are satisfied.
"They're a team that can win four straight," Gordon said. "We definitely can't get complacent."