MIAMI -- After watching his team look lifeless and get outscored 33-12 in the second quarter against the Miami Heat on Thursday, Chicago Bulls center and team leader Joakim Noah felt as bad as his fans did.
"It was embarrassing," Noah said. "We were getting outcompeted. Our identity for years has been our intensity and our defense, and it wasn't there in the first half. And it was very good in the second half."
The Bulls turned it around with a dominant third quarter in which they outscored the Heat 33-8 and shot 67 percent from the field on their way to an 89-78 victory.
So how did they turn it around? What was said at halftime that got this proud team back on track after it fell apart against a bad Orlando Magic team in the fourth quarter the night before?
Enter veteran Nazr Mohammed.
The 37-year-old center didn't play a minute in the game, but he made one of the biggest assists of the night.
"Naz stepped up and said this wasn't good enough," Bulls guard Aaron Brooks said. "We're not playing playoff basketball and we have the talent. We just challenged each other to do better."
Mohammed has made his presence felt several times in the past few weeks as a wise voice who knows his team can do better. He was sick of watching his team go down the wrong path. While other teammates said some things, it was Mohammed's message that made an impression.
"I think you got to be accountable and you got to play for each other," Brooks said. "I think one thing that Naz brought up was you're letting your teammate down when you're not getting back or you're not helping. You're not letting the coach, you're not letting the fans. You're letting your teammate down, and you got to have your brother's back."
Surprisingly, Bulls guard Derrick Rose said fiery Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was "pretty calm" at halftime. Between Thibodeau's message and Mohammed's fire, something clicked for the Bulls: They came out and outscored the Heat 57-27 in the second half.
In a season full of bad losses, the Bulls turned a game that was headed the wrong direction into one of the best wins of the year.
"It was very important," Rose said. "Especially when we lost [Wednesday night] and coming into [Thursday's] game and we're down by 20 at half. It's not the message that you want to send out that you're just not going to play hard these last couple of games. So I'm happy that we won this game tonight and we're just going to try and keep jelling, and hopefully, we get Jimmy [Butler, who sat out with a left calf injury] back as soon as possible and keep playing."