CHICAGO | The Miami Heat is not some 13-headed monster from outer space devouring everything in its path.
Though national media already have awarded Miami its second consecutive NBA championship with several playoff games remaining, the Bulls aren't buying it.
The sting of Wednesday's 115-78 embarrassment having worn off nicely, the Bulls dug in for Friday night's crucial Game 3 and the entertaining series knotted at 1-1.
With a talent pool barely ankle deep compared to the gifted Heat, the Bulls made it a game until they were running on fumes and fell short, 104-94.
LeBron James' deep 3-pointer followed by Norris Cole's 3 with 1:48 remaining gave Miami a safe 96-88 lead.
Game 4 is Monday night in Chicago.
James led the Heat with 25 points. Chris Bosh added 20 and a game-high 19 rebounds. Cole had 18 points off the bench.
"You can't win a championship being pretty and shiny. You have to get dirty," Bosh said. "You have to play physical. You have to do things that are extremely tough.
"When push comes to shove, we know what we have to do."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau again thought the officiating was one-sided but would not elaborate.
"We're gonna have to play our best game Monday," he said.
First order of business Friday was Carlos Boozer finding his game after being held to 14 points, 11 rebounds and shooting 30 percent in the first two.
Boozer finished with 21 points, 14 coming in the opening quarter. Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler had 17 apiece as the Bulls' bench was outscored 36-8.
The team's lack of composure was a concern for Thibodeau, still upset over the six technicals and two ejections (Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson) in Game 2.
Gibson was fined $25,000 by the league earlier Friday for verbally abusing officials as he left the court in Miami.
Game 3 was no church picnic as emotions again boiled over between both Eastern Conference frontrunners.
Late in the opening period, 6-foot-10 Chris “Birdman” Andersen fouled Robinson on a layup, then landed on the 5-foot-9 guard. Noah rushed over and pushed Andersen, who kicked at him.
Noah was given a technical.
In the second quarter, Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed fouled James, then stumbled backwards. Mohammed jumped up and pushed James to the floor, drawing a “tech” and ejection.
"We'd like to have Nazr out there. He makes a big difference for us," Boozer said.
"Nazr gives Joe (Joakim) a rest, so we had to extend Joe's minutes," Thibodeau said. "He's a big part of the offensive rebounding. He hasn't done anything but go out there and play hard.
"A flagrant foul, OK. But I didn't think it warranted an ejection. I'm watching how things are going. I'm watching very closely. And what I'm seeing ... we'll adjust."
The already-shorthanded Bulls, who were without Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (calf) once again, now have 10 technicals in 12 quarters against Miami.
"You just have to keep playing," Gibson said. "Whatever happens, lips closed. Let the refs do their job and focus on the next play."
Foul-stricken Marco Belinelli finished with 16 points. Noah had 15 points and 11 rebounds as four starters played 42 minutes or longer.