Dwyane Wade, left, and LeBron James failed to lead the Miami Heat past the Chicago Bulls. Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com
After yet another lethargic start, the Miami Heat this time paid for it as their impressive attempt at history was ended by a 101-97 loss in Chicago on Wednesday, March 27.
The Bulls rallied out to a 13-point lead in the first half at the United Center and the crowd was all pumped up for what felt like a playoff atmosphere as the champions seemed doomed from the beginning.
However it’s got to be said–Miami did look like they were going to pull out another of those trademark comeback wins they’ve been known for these past 27 games.
LeBron James, maybe feeling the streak slipping away from his team’s fingers, uncharacteristically started looking for his offense early on. Driving his freight-train-like body into the paint over and over again resulted in eight trips to the foul line, 5-for-7 shooting from the field and 18 points at the half.
But every time LeBron tried to spark his team for the comeback, little Nate Robinson seemed to have an answer; either flipping the ball up for a momentum building buzzer beater to the end the first quarter or hustling back on defense to strip an unsuspecting Dwyane Wade and capping it with a 3.
Then the third quarter came and almost expectantly Miami turned up the defensive intensity and got out on the break. LeBron almost ripped off the rim from its hinges and the momentum was back with the champs.
With Joakim Noah,left, injured, Luol Deng and the Bulls stepped up to end Miami’s 27-game win streak. (Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com)
Having said that, the Heat then reverted to their early-game form, going 2-for-11 to start the fourth and Los Bulls (it was one of the NBA’s Noche Latino nights celebrating Latin American culture) took full advantage as the lead grew to eight points after a tip-in and a couple of 3s from Luol Deng, who had a stellar fourth quarter, finishing the game with 28 points.
Wade was up to his old tricks again with a contorted, tricky finish in the paint after fellow Marquette alum Jimmy Butler fouled him. That didn’t do much to swing the impetus because Butler then hit a shot from deep on the other end.
It didn’t help either that Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich seemed to think he was an NFL safety, literally tackling James at any given opportunity. Tough fouls or dirty play? You decide.
Either way, James went on to take out his frustration on Hinrich with an emphatic rejection for his fourth block of the game. But it was the scrappy guard who had the last laugh as Chicago would answer with a big basket and continue to fire up the crowd.
What makes this win even more impressive is the fact that they pulled it off despite the absence of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. I guess it’s like Deng told ESPN’s Chris Broussard, “The next man has to step up.”