The Miami Heat came to Chicago on Wednesday looking to extend their winning streak to 28 games against a Bulls squad playing without Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose in a dynamite regular season game that had the feel and intensity of a 1990s playoff game with Michael Jordan.
The shorthanded and less talented Bulls–and their raucous crowd that had the United Center rocking like the old Chicago Stadium–had a simple message: Not in our house.
The Bulls, who could face the Heat in the playoffs, refused to be a footnote in the Heat’s march toward history by defeating them 101-97 in a tough Eastern Conference battle, ending the Heat’s winning streak at 27. The Heat were six games away from tying the NBA record of 33 straight victories, which was set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
This was Miami’s first loss since a Feb. 1 loss to the Pacers. Miami’s winning streak started on Super Bowl Sunday with a win over Toronto.
Chicago’s Nate Robinson provided a dynamic burst of energy off the bench, scoring 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting in the first half as the Bulls, a team that has had trouble scoring points this season, led 55-46 at halftime.
But as the Heat have done throughout the streak, they came back to briefly take the lead in the third quarter before the game turned into a dogfight. For the Heat, LeBron James had 32 points, Chris Bosh had 21 points, and Dwayne Wade had 18 in his homecoming.
For Chicago, Luol Deng had 28 points, Carlos Boozer had 21 points, and Jimmy Butler had 14, including a key three-point jumper down the stretch.
The game showed how impressive Miami’s streak was, for all the things that did not go wrong for the Heat during the streak did in the fourth quarter. Chris Andersen missed a dunk. Shane Battier had a questionable foul called against him down the stretch. Kirk Hinrich tore the ball away from Bosh. Boozer grabbed key offensive rebounds and LeBron James got called for a flagrant foul for running through Carlos Boozer’s screen attempt after the Bulls had repeatedly butchered James on the offensive end.
The game was chippy, and the Heat walked off the court without shaking the hands of the Chicago Bulls players after the game.
Miami’s loss prevents Sunday’s game against San Antonio from being a blockbuster affair. Had Miami defeated Chicago and San Antonio Sunday, they most likely would have broken the NBA record, which is arguably one of the most impressive records in all of sports.
During the streak, every game seemed like a playoff game for the Heat, and this loss may actually help them rest their bodies and minds before the grueling playoff season.
As for the 1971-72 Lakers, while many players from the roster did not publicly root against the Heat, they sleep tonight knowing their record may not be broken–if ever–for some time.
Laker fans who cared about the NBA record for most consecutive wins staying with the Lakers were celebrating the Bulls victory, and Chicago’s win was one of the few bright spots in a season that has been abysmal for Laker Nation.
Miami next plays at New Orleans on Friday.