The Miami Heat tear has finally come to an end, at least for a day or two.
One of the most impressive streaks in NBA history has come to a screeching halt at the United Center last night. The 27-game victorious path that began in early February ended last night when the Heat lost to the Chicago Bulls 101-97.
Miami seemed to be on its way to erasing the 1971-72 streak by the Los Angeles Lakers of 33-straight wins—carrying a twelve-point win average, plenty of ESPN highlights and a continuing MVP case by LeBron James.
Very few teams in the NBA can match Miami on talent and depth.
Chicago dealt with that issue as guards Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton, Marco Belinelli and center Joakim Noah all sat out with injuries. The Bulls didn't back down and handled the Heat properly.
The most physical teams in the NBA come out of the Eastern Conference and Chicago played that style. The physicality got to Miami with defensive pressure and the war on the glass, Miami's biggest problem. The Heat rank 30th in rebounding and exposed that weakness grabbing only 31 rebounds to Chicago's 43.
The Bulls took a page out of the old school Bad Boys' book with LeBron. King James took some hard fouls from Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson. Forward Luol Deng also defends LeBron as well as anybody else in the league. Chicago frustrated LeBron enough to draw his first flagrant foul of the season after a hard forearm shove to Carlos Boozer.
Add some late-game heroics from guard Nate Robinson, and you find a Chicago victory.
Even with LeBron complaining, the Bulls cooked up the right ingredient to knock down the Heat. It was literally that, knock down the Heat.
Could that be the missing piece to a watered down league like the NBA? When almost every hard foul is reviewed for a flagrant, and superstars receive the benefit of many calls, does a victory like Chicago's wave a red flag for NBA and their officials?
Last night's victory took a punch in the mouth from the underdogs of Chicago to defeat the Heat. Despite the win, there is still a wide margin between teams like Chicago and an elite force like Miami.
As mentioned before, the Heat's biggest weakness is rebounding, but it's nothing that will hinder another title run. Miami is still fifth in the league in scoring, as well as first in field goals shooting 50 percent from the field.
If you're scoring that well and can create about 15 turnovers from your opponent, rebounding is the last concern for the defending champions.
The Heat have set a standard that nobody can match right now. Since the infamous "decision," the NBA has become a copy-cat league as superstars aim to play together instead of competing against one another. LeBron admitted in 2011 the Heat's "Big 3" was inspired by the Boston Celtics "Big 3" of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Now the NBA is trying to follow the exact format.
The Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and other major market teams have brought in superstars to propel themselves to a championship. At the same time, these high-profile teams easily attract role players to join. Miami has picked up quality bench players like Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen.
The Heat is so deep they can afford to let players like James Jones, Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis warm the bench, while they could be solid help for weaker teams.
Streak or no streak, this is still Miami's world.
The only ways to change is that is by allowing teams to play physical without trigger-happy officials, or breaking up the band of the Heat. It will inflate the competitive nature of the league, as well as balance out the power of teams. Both are highly-unlikely in the immediate NBA future.
Very few teams play with the defensive intensity of the Chicago Bulls, or have an intense coach of the year possibility like Tom Thibodeau. Physical teams like the Boston Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs fit that description, but still don't matchup well with Miami. As long as Miami is healthy, they'll be looking down on the rest of the NBA.