8:00 PM ET, March 27, 2013
United Center, Chicago, IL
CHICAGO -- No last-second shot.
No fourth-quarter rally.
The Heat's bid for NBA history ended Wednesday night when their 27-game winning streak was snapped by the Chicago Bulls 101-97, setting off a raucous celebration inside United Center.
Miami finished six wins shy of the 33-game record held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
Later, James said there was no shame in falling short.
"It's one of the best that this league has ever seen," James said, referring to the streak that began on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3. "We recognized that and rightfully so."
James tried to spur yet another comeback in the final minutes, getting mad after a rough foul. But the reigning MVP never could get the defending champions even or, more importantly, ahead.
With only two-tenths of a second left, James took the final inbounds pass in his own end, dropped the ball to allow time to expire, turned and walked toward the exit.
More Heat-Bulls Coverage
Miami now can focus on shoring up some shortcomings, granting its stars some much-needed time off and preparing to defend its championship, Michael Wallace writes. Dime
The undermanned Bulls found momentary joy and a certain validation by breaking the Heat's famous winning streak with a bruising victory, Jon Greenberg writes. Story
On a night when the Chicago Bulls seemed to mature, there might not have been another player who made a bigger leap than swingman Jimmy Butler, Nick Friedell writes. Blog
• Doolittle: Slugfests the key against the Heat?
• Stats: How the Bulls ended the Heat streak
• Playbook: The 33 best streaks in sports history
• Heat Reaction | Heat Index
• Bulls Reaction | ESPN Chicago
Miami's superstar did all he could to keep the run going, scoring 32 points and even collecting a flagrant foul during a physical final few minutes.
"We haven't had a chance to really have a moment to know what we just did," James said. "We had a moment, just very fortunate, very humbling and blessed to be part of this team and be part of a streak like that."
The Heat hadn't lost since the Pacers beat them in Indianapolis on Feb. 1. But after grinding out some close wins lately, including a rally from 27 down in Cleveland, no one counted them out until the final buzzer.
For the better part of two months, they were the NBA's comeback kings. They erased seven double-digit deficits during the streak. They found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter 11 times, and won them all.
"We understand, probably more so later on in our careers, the significance of that. And then that was it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We took that moment to acknowledge it, to acknowledge each other, that experience, but it was never about the streak. We have a bigger goal, but also right now, it's about 'Are we getting better?' "
They walked off the floor stoically, not exchanging any handshakes or pleasantries with the Bulls. James slapped high-fives with a couple teammates and coaches, then glared at a fan who grabbed his head as he headed toward the tunnel leading to the visitors' locker room.
James was frustrated on the court at times, and showed more of the same in the locker room afterward with regard to how he's officiated.
Bulls Cool Off Heat
The Bulls ended the Heat's historic run Wednesday night. Here's a closer look at the streaks Chicago ended with its 101-97 victory:
Snapped on Wednesday
|Wins vs. Eastern Conf opp.||19|
|Wins vs. teams above .500||11|
|*- All snapped Wednesday night|
--ESPN Stats & Information
The Heat dominated the fourth quarter during their 27-game win streak. In the loss to the Bulls, they shot 1-for-8 on 3-pointers and were outrebounded by 12.
Heat in Fourth Quarter
Last 28 Games
|Previous 27 Games||Wednesday|
|--ESPN Stats & Information|
He cited two instances from Wednesday alone -- a play where Kirk Hinrich took him down with two hands in the first quarter, and Taj Gibson appearing to make contact around his neck with about 4 minutes remaining -- where he thought the contact was excessive. Referees reviewed the Gibson hit, but did not award a flagrant foul. So, seconds later, James tried to barrel through Boozer on a screen, and got called for a Flagrant 1 himself.
"Those are not basketball plays and it's been happening all year," James said. "I've been able to keep my cool and try to tell Spo, 'Let's not worry about it too much,' but it is getting to me a little bit."
The Bulls, meanwhile, whooped and slapped hands with anyone they could reach after clinching a playoff berth.
It will go down as the second-longest winning streak in the history of American major pro sports. And some of those Lakers believed their time would pass as Miami's streak rolled along, with Jerry West among those saying that he believed the reigning champions had a real shot at pulling it off.
The streak began in Toronto, a day when Heat players were mildly annoyed about having to miss football's title game. When San Francisco and Baltimore were to be playing, the Heat were to be flying home for a game the following night.
So team officials changed course, as a surprise.
Miami beat the Raptors that afternoon, then stayed in the city several more hours to watch the Super Bowl together, an event highlighted by Shane Battier giving an unplanned speech about appreciating little moments as a team.
For whatever reason, the Heat were unbeatable for nearly the next two months.
And they won games in a number of different ways.
They blew out good teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Bulls, then inexplicably struggled with lottery-bound Cleveland, Detroit, Sacramento, Charlotte and Orlando. They rallied from 13 points down in the final 8 minutes to beat Boston, from a 27-point, third-quarter hole at Cleveland, and from 11-point deficits against Detroit and Charlotte -- all those coming in a seven-day span, no less.
"There are several teams that can do it," Pistons guard Jose Calderon said, when asked what it would take for someone to beat Miami. "It's difficult to maintain this concentration every day. It will likely take everyone to have a bad day."
Even when those bad days happened, the Heat found ways to win.
A layup by James with 3.2 seconds left against Orlando. Double-overtime against Sacramento. Huge comebacks. Whatever it took.
"To do something like this, everyone needs to step up," said Battier, who was part of a 32-game winning streak at Duke, a 22-gamer with the Houston Rockets and now played a role in this epic Heat run.
There were times when even the Heat themselves didn't know how long the streak was. Because it was interrupted by the All-Star break, Spoelstra was surprised when a staff member said something about Miami having won nine in a row. When it was at 24 games, Dwyane Wade made a reference to "23, 24, whatever it is."
They insisted they did not care about it, whatever the number was.
SportsNation: Bulls end Heat's streak
The Heat's 27-game win streak has ended with a loss to the Bulls. Will the '71-72 Lakers' 33-game win streak ever be broken? Vote!
Heat president Pat Riley played for the Lakers team that won 33 in a row, and remained silent throughout Miami's streak, mainly because he rarely gives interviews these days but more so because the official team stance was that it simply did not matter. This season is championship-or-bust for Miami, one where nothing else other than raising yet another Larry O'Brien Trophy will satisfy.
Still, the streak will go down as the story of the regular season.
When it started, Miami was 5½ games behind San Antonio for the overall NBA lead, only a half-game ahead of New York in the Eastern Conference race, held just a four-game edge over Atlanta in the Southeast Division and were the league's ninth-best road team in terms of winning percentage.
Funny what two months or so without losing can do.
The Heat now sit atop the overall NBA standings, gained 12 games over New York in the East entering Wednesday, put away the Hawks for good several weeks ago and are now, by far, the league's best road team. And with the streak over, all that's left now is getting ready for the postseason.
They trailed by as much as 13 in the first half, took the lead while outscoring Chicago 22-14 in the third quarter and were within two early in the fourth after a basket by Wade.
That's when Deng answered with a 3-pointer from the wing and Hinrich brought the crowd to its feet with a floater. Then, after a layup by James, Deng nailed a 3 to make it 83-75 with just over six minutes left.
It got testy after that. James did all he could to keep the streak going, taking enough hard hits that even his headband was dislodged, and finished with seven rebounds.
Chris Bosh scored 21. Wade added 18 points after a sore right knee sidelined him for victories over Charlotte and Orlando, but the Heat fell to a team that continues to give them fits even though Derrick Rose has been sidelined all year.
Deng came up big, burying four 3-pointers. He also had seven rebounds and five assists.
Boozer was a force inside. Jimmy Butler provided a spark with 17 points and the Bulls stopped Miami even though they were missing Joakim Noah (right foot), Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) and Richard Hamilton (lower back).
For the Heat, luck simply ran out after recent wins in which they rallied trailed Boston by 17, Cleveland by 27 and Detroit and Charlotte by 11 each. They were also tied with Orlando late in the third quarter before pulling away, and when Battier nailed a 3 with 4:30 left in the third, it looked like they just might pull this one out, too.
They were leading 59-58 after that shot, and they were up by two before Boozer converted a three-point play off a neat bounce pass from Gibson in the closing seconds to send Chicago into the fourth quarter with a 69-68 lead.
But they came up short down the stretch, fans chanting "End of streak! End of streak!" in the closing minute.
"We were much more competitive in the second half. It became make or miss in the fourth quarter, and we couldn't get the necessary stops we needed to," Spoelstra said. "In the last handful of games, those shots were going down and maybe that masked a few things going down the stretch."
There was a rumor that Rose would make his long-awaited return from a knee injury after rapper Waka Flocka Flame posted on Twitter, "Word is D.Rose back." The two are fans of each other, but the superstar point guard squashed it at the morning shootaround, with two words -- "Not tonight."
Rose actually sounded more like someone who will sit out the entire season, saying his recovery is "in God's hands." He hasn't played since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last year's playoff opener against Philadelphia, sending the top-seeded Bulls to a first-round exit, and his comeback has been an ongoing soap opera.
The Bulls were the biggest threat to Miami in the Eastern Conference the past two years, but without their superstar, they're just part of the pack.
Even so, no one has given the Heat more trouble since James and Bosh united with Wade in 2010. They had split 14 games leading up to this one, with Chicago winning at Miami in early January and the Heat returning the favor at the United Center last month.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said Noah was improving but wasn't ready to return. "It's better, but he's not quite there," Thibodeau said. "I just want to be smart about it." ... Tom Boerwinkle, the former Bulls center who had a franchise-record 37 rebounds in a 1970 game against the Phoenix Suns, has died. He was 67. Bulls spokesman Tim Hallam said Wednesday that a family member informed team officials of Boerwinkle's death, and the University of Tennessee issued a statement saying the former Volunteers player died Tuesday at his home near Chicago after a lengthy illness. Boerwinkle played 10 seasons with the Bulls from 1968-69 to 1977-78 and also worked as an analyst on the team's radio broadcasts from 1991-94.
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 27: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls warms up before the game between the Chicago Bulls...(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: Jimmy Butler wasn't the Bulls' leading scorer, but he spent all night flitting through empty space in the Heat defense and playing calm, confident basketball at both ends. He was the glue holding the win together.
LVP: Pressured by Chicago's aggressive rotations, Miami's supporting cast struggled to find good shots in the flow of the offense. Other than LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat scored 26 points, shooting 11-of-30.
X factor: Kirk Hinrich brought big play after big play -- swinging the ball on offense, single-handedly challenging a LeBron fast break and ripping the ball away from Bosh for a key steal down the stretch.
Next 5 Games
From Elias: There is a reason why the Bulls and other teams try to wrap up LeBron when he goes to the rim. James is adept at getting to the foul line. He ranked 6th in FT attempts, 5th in FT makes and he's converted 40 "And 1's" this season... good for 3rd most in the NBA.[+]
AT THE CHARITY STRIPE - LeBRON JAMES NBA RANKS THIS SEASON
The Heat drove to the basket 35 times when in half-court sets Wednesday and struggled to find open shooters on those drives. The Heat were 13-of-17 on drives to the basket, but were only 2-of-7 on passes off those drives. The Heat shot only 25.6 percent from outside the paint (second-worst for Heat this season). LeBron James was 5-of-7 shooting on his drives to the basket and drew five fouls, but only one of his passes led directly to a field goal attempt (a Shane Battier missed three). James had only three assists on the game, tied for his third-fewest this season.[+]
Result of Heat Drives - Wednesday at Bulls
The Bulls allowed the Heat to drive the paint, but didn't allow the Heat to drive and dish. The Heat shot 71.1 percent inside the paint Wednesday but went 10-of-39 outside the paint (25.6 percent), their second-worst rate of the season. The Heat shot 28.0 percent (7-of-25) on catch-and-shoot jumpers Wednesday. Entering the game, the Heat had the best field goal percentage (42.4) on those plays and were even better (45.0 percent) during the win-streak.[+]
Shooting Outside the Paint - Wednesday
The 27-game win streak wasnt the only streak snapped on Wednesday in the Heat's loss to the Bulls...[+]
Heat Streaks - Snapped on Wednesday
ESPN Stats & Information