MIAMI (AP) -From Pat Riley's perspective, the biggest reason why his Miami Heat have dropped the first two games of their series with the Chicago Bulls is not Luol Deng's scoring or Ben Gordon's rhythm.
Instead, Riley blames the New Jersey Nets.
To secure the No. 2 seed for these Eastern Conference playoffs - plus get to the 50-win mark, a goal Chicago talked about all season - the Bulls needed only a win in New Jersey last week in their regular-season finale. But the Nets won that night, dropping Chicago to the No. 5 seed.
``Usually, born out of that kind of adversity comes something else,'' Riley said. ``And I think you saw that in the first two games.''
Now, it's time for the Heat to respond to some big-time adversity.
The Bulls will fly to Miami on Thursday with a 2-0 lead in the first-round matchup against the defending NBA champions, who need home wins Friday night and Sunday afternoon to knot the series. Chicago took Saturday's opener 96-91, then pulled away in the second half for a 107-89 victory Tuesday night.
``I know overconfidence is not going to be a problem,'' Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. ``It's just a matter of, can we be ready for what we're about to encounter down there?''
The Bulls have been quicker than the Heat, are shooting better than the Heat, are rebounding better than the Heat ... in short, it's all going Chicago's way. And the Bulls - who blew a 2-0 series lead in the first round against Washington two years ago and are seeking their first series win since the Michael Jordan era - are saying all the right things, too.
``The last thing you want to do is relax,'' Gordon said after his 27-point effort in Game 2. ``You want to play like you're down 2-0. I think it's very important that we approach the next game like it's the first game of the series and come out with the same intensity.''
Through two games, Chicago has shot 49 percent to Miami's 45, outrebounded the Heat by an average of 10.5 per game, averaged 8.5 more assists per game and has whopping 35-9 edge so far in fast-break points.
Deng and Gordon are combining to average 55 points on 54 percent shooting. The Heat probably expected big numbers from Gordon, one of the NBA's elite shooters, but clearly didn't want to see breakout games from Deng - who had 33 points in the opener and scored 14 of his 26 Game 2 points in the fourth quarter to seal that win.
``He's killing us right now,'' Heat forward Antoine Walker said. ``We have to find a way to stop him, somehow, some way.''
Meanwhile, other than Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, the Heat have struggled offensively. Miami's top duo is averaging 39 points per game, while the other three Heat starters - Udonis Haslem, Jason Williams and Eddie Jones - are a combined 12-of-33 from the field for a total of 34 points in the series.
``If we don't correct a couple of things that they're doing very successfully against us, then it's going to be very difficult to win even at home,'' Riley said. ``But we hope that being at home will give us a little bit more incentive and we can feel a little bit more comfortable there.''
Both teams are acutely aware of what a 2-0 lead in a playoff series typically means.
Only 11 teams have rallied from 0-2 holes to win a best-of-seven matchup, the last, of course, coming last season when Miami lost the first two games of the finals in Dallas before peeling off four straight to win the franchise's first championship. O'Neal has overcome such a deficit twice, the first in 2004 when his Los Angeles Lakers beat San Antonio in the West semifinals.
Still, Miami has lost six of its last eight games dating back to the regular season - a stretch that, oddly, began when Wade returned from his dislocated left shoulder. And the Bulls haven't lost four out of five games since mid-February, and that was primarily on a West coast swing.
Unless Miami finds a way to beat Chicago in four of the next five, its days of wearing the crown will come to a quick end.
``Believe me, this game can change, like, quick,'' Riley said. ``It changes quickly. We found that out last year in the playoffs. When everything sort of seems like it's the worst, it's just the beginning of whatever can happen.''
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