CHICAGO, Illinois, March 28 – The Chicago Bulls ended the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak on Wednesday with a 101-97 triumph that halted the reigning champions’ bid for NBA history.
The Heat’s streak was the second-best winning run in major North American professional sport — halted six games short of matching the 33-game NBA winning streak of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat had not lost since February 1 at Indiana.
Chicago’s Luol Deng scored 28 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, and made four three-pointers. Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 17 rebounds for the Bulls, who leapt to an early lead and held their ground in a gritty performance.
“We’ve been saying it all year: When we’re at our best, we can beat anybody,” Deng said.
Going in, however, it seemed doubtful the Bulls would be at their best. Star guard Derrick Rose has yet to play this season as he recovers from a knee injury, and Chicago were also without injured All-Star center Joakim Noah of France, as well as guards Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli.
“We didn’t play perfect, but we fought hard the whole game,” Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said.
Jimmy Butler added 17 points for the Bulls, who limited the Heat’s formidable offense to 44.4 percent shooting from the field in the second half.
Heat superstar LeBron James scored 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting with seven rebounds.
James’s usual role as a facilitator was limited, however. He had only three assists and became clearly frustrated by the Bulls’ physical approach to defending him. That included a two-handed take-down by Hinrich in the first quarter, and a rough grab by Taj Gibson in the fourth that was reviewed and ruled a common rather than flagrant foul.
“I feel like I got the worst of it,” Hinrich said of his foul on James — who still gained two points from the play by making two free throws. “I was just hanging on for dear life.”
James, who was assessed a flagrant foul himself for driving through a screen set by Boozer with less than four minutes to play, said some of the tactics crossed the line.
“Those are not basketball plays,” James said, but the Bulls were unrepentant.
“We just had that edge about us tonight,” Hinrich said.
Dwyane Wade returned from a two-game absence to score 18 points and grab seven rebounds, while Chris Bosh scored 21 points in the setback.
As they had more than once during the streak, the Heat fell behind by double digits, trailing by as many as 13 in the first half.
They were behind 55-46 at halftime, but once again found another gear after the interval.
James scored four points on dunks to open the third quarter as for the eighth time in the streak the Heat launched a rally from a double-digit deficit.
The Heat took the lead for the first time, 59-58, with 4:30 left in the third quarter on Shane Battier’s three-pointer.
Butler’s dunk on an alley-oop pass from Deng saw the Bulls rebuild their lead to 64-61 with 2:27 left in the third, Butler rising over Miami’s Chris Bosh to grab the pass.
The Heat responded with another three-pointer by Battier, and had knotted the score at 69-69 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
The Bulls again pulled ahead with a 6-0 scoring run. After Wade made two baskets to narrow the deficit, Deng sank a crucial three-pointer — then added another almost a minute later that gave Chicago an 83-75 lead with six minutes to play.
Boozer’s rebound and putback layup was followed by a a turnover by James — leading to a layup for the Bulls’ Nate Robinson that put Chicago’s lead at 98-89 with 30.2 seconds remaining, and the Bulls added three free throws from there.
The Heat kept pushing, with Wade’s steal and basket followed by a three-pointer by Bosh narrowing the gap with 5.5 seconds on the clock — but then to the joy of chanting Bulls fans the Heat and their streak were done.