History will just have to wait.
The Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak was snapped by the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, leaving the tired Heat looking for answers and Bulls fans celebrating outside United Center. After their 101-97 loss, the Heat will have to settle for having the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, falling six games shy of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ mark.
Miami hadn’t lost since Feb. 1 and was, as the Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman noted, running on fumes of late. They’d started slowly in the last couple of games (trailing Boston by 17 points and Cleveland by 27) and 14 times during the streak they trailed or were tied at halftime. But this time, their opponent was just too much.
“It’s one of the best that this league has ever seen,” James said of the streak that began Super Bowl Sunday. “We recognized that and rightfully so.”
James, who finished with 32 points, tried to lift the team but couldn’t get Miami, in its El Heat uniforms, going. In the late going, even James’s outrage at a hard four couldn’t spark the NBA champions. He was exasperated from the beating, taking the inbounds pass with two-tenths of a second left, dropping the ball and walking off the court.
“It’s been happening all year, and I’ve been able to keep my cool and try to tell Spo [Coach Erik Spoelstra], ‘Let’s not worry about it too much.’ But it is getting to me a little bit because every time I try to defend myself, I got to face the consequences of a flagrant for me or a technical foul, whatever the case may be,” James said.
“It’s tough. It’s tough. It’s very tough, and I’m not sitting here crying about anything because I play the game at a high level. I play with a lot of aggression, and I understand that some of the plays are on the borderline of a basketball play or not, but sometimes you just got to … I don’t know. It’s frustrating.”
The Bulls, without Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton and (of course) Derrick Rose, manhandled the Heat. Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 17 rebounds and Luol Deng scored 28 points, with Kirk Hinrich stifling James, who had only three assists in the game. James was so frustrated that he erupted with 3:52 left in the game, drawing a whistle for his first flagrant foul of the season by driving into Boozer’s chest as he tried to set a screen.
“Let me calculate my thoughts real fast before I say [anything],” James said. “I believe and I know that a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays. First of all, Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground. The last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground. Those are not defensive … those are not basketball plays.”
The Heat move on now to New Orleans, where they’ll try to avoid a two-game losing streak and resume thinking about a second NBA title. That’s the mission, after all.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Dwyane Wade said.