MIAMI — Up by 19 at halftime, the Miami Heat were rolling.
By game’s end, they were reeling.
And their playoff hopes are now, at best, ailing.
Miami’s trying season is now on the brink, after Chicago not only pulled off a staggering comeback but made it look easy.
Pau Gasol had 16 points and 15 rebounds, Aaron Brooks and Taj Gibson each added 14 points and the Bulls beat the Heat 89-78 on Thursday night — dealing Miami’s postseason chances a major blow.
“Once we started getting into them, getting rebounds, containing them to one shot, things turned around,” Gasol said.
Oh, they turned around, and in a hurry. Miami led 51-32 at the half, winning the second quarter 33-12 after Chicago’s worst-shooting opening 24 minutes of the season.
“It was embarrassing,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said.
So was the second half — albeit for the other team. Chicago outscored the Heat 57-27 after intermission, scoring 39 of the first 47 points in the second half. Miami’s huge lead was gone in less than 10 minutes, as the Heat missed their first 12 shots of the third quarter, and the freefall never ceased.
“We’re all frustrated,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re all embarrassed when you’re in those situations and you can’t stop an avalanche like that.”
Mike Dunleavy and Derrick Rose each scored 12 points for Chicago, which moved back into the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference standings and won despite Jimmy Butler being held out with a calf injury.
Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Heat. Dwyane Wade scored nine points, shooting just 4-for-20. Goran Dragic had 15 points for Miami and Michael Beasley scored 13.
The Bulls scored the first 11 points of the second half, then went on a 24-3 run over another 7-minute stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters.
By then, the game was gone. So, perhaps, is the season. Miami remained in the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference race with three games left, but now it almost certainly needs to win out and get plenty of help to get back to the postseason.
“You just keep coming back until they tell you your season is over,” Wade said. “This team has been through a lot. ... A loss, a bad 24 minutes, that’s not going to deter us from coming back and doing our job.”