The Miami Heat’s quest for history fell short, but it did not end quietly.
The Chicago Bulls stopped the second-longest win streak in US professional sports history, beating the Heat 101-97 on Wednesday at a raucous United Center in Chicago.
The Heat’s streak ended at 27. Only the 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers, who won 33 in a row, had a longer winning sequence in any of the US’ professional sports, and after the loss Miami coach Erik Spoelstra reflected on a remarkable accomplishment.
“I had everyone come in and put a hand on each other,” Spoelstra said. “It was the first time I had mentioned the streak. It was a heck of an experience to have together. Its significance will mean much more to us later in our careers. I asked them all to share the moment with each other.”
Playing without center Joakim Noah, guard Marco Belinelli, guard Richard Hamilton and Derrick Rose, the Bulls got 28 points from Luol Deng, while Carlos Boozer compiled 21 points and 17 rebounds.
Boozer came up with the biggest basket for Chicago, fighting off two opponents to grab an offensive rebound, then following it in to make the score 96-89 with 57 seconds remaining.
Nate Robinson put the game out of reach with a drive down the lane and a floater with 30.2 seconds left, while LeBron James hung on the rim after trying to block the shot.
“It didn’t matter who they were playing, everyone was following the streak,” Deng said. “So it’s great. It’s a good feeling to say we’re the ones who ended their streak before they broke the record.”
James led Miami with 32 points, while Chris Bosh scored 21 and Dwyane Wade had 18.
The game was physical throughout. James was called for a flagrant foul against Boozer, his former Cleveland teammate, with 3 minutes, 52 seconds remaining.
After leading by as many as 13 points in the first half, Chicago clung to a 69-68 edge heading into the fourth quarter. The Bulls created some space with a 6-0 run, then added a pair of three-pointers from Deng and a corner three-pointer by Jimmy Butler to take an 86-79 lead with 5:13 remaining.
“We were much more competitive in that second half,” Spoelstra said. “However, we were in a make-or-miss situation in the fourth quarter and just couldn’t do it. Give them credit, though, they made big plays at the end.”