CHICAGO — The Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak was snapped Wednesday night by the Chicago Bulls, 101-97, when a furious comeback by LeBron James and his teammates fell short.
The Heat finished six shy of the 33-game record held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
Luol Deng scored 28 points, Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 17 rebounds, and the Bulls brought the Heat’s pursuit of NBA history to a screeching halt.
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. It’s one of the best that this league has ever seen. We recognized that and rightfully so.”
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.
And when they walked off the floor in Chicago, faces were stoic as the Heat trudged toward the locker room. James turned and glared at one fan who grabbed at his head.
The Bulls, meanwhile, whooped and slapped hands with anyone they could reach.
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 Heat won games in a number of different ways.
They blew out good teams like 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 buzzer-beater by James 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.
On Wednesday, the Heat trailed by as many 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 Kirk 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.
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).
Miami came up short down the stretch, with fans chanting “End of streak! End of streak!” in the closing minute.