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"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.
Miami had won 13 straight on the road and fell one shy of the club record.
Thibodeau said Noah was improving but wasn’t ready to return.
Tom Boerwinkle, the former Bulls center who had a franchise-record 37 rebounds in a 1970 game against the Phoenix Suns, died Tuesday. He was 67. 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.
"It’s a five-second moment of reflection before we move on to the rest of the season," Wade said. "In here, it didn’t feel like we were on this amazing streak."
What a run it was, though.
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 the NFL 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 team 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 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 layup by James with 3.2 seconds left against Orlando. Double-overtime against Sacramento. Huge comebacks. Whatever it took.
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, Wade made a reference to "23, 24, whatever it is."
They insisted they did not care about it, whatever the number was.
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, 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.
"It was more important to everybody else than it was to us," Chris Bosh said. "We never cared too much about talking about it. It wasn’t a subject of conversation until (others mentioned it)."
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.Next Page >
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