CHICAGO (AP) — With two-tenths of a second left, LeBron James took the final inbounds pass in his own end, dropped the ball to let time expire, turned and walked toward the exit.
No buzzer beater.
No fourth-quarter rally.
No record for James and the Miami Heat, either.
The Heat's bid for NBA history ended Wednesday night when their 27-game winning streak was snapped by the Chicago Bulls 101-97, setting off a raucous celebration inside United Center.
Miami finished six shy of the 33-game record held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
James said there was no shame in falling short.
"It's one of the best that this league has ever seen," James said, referring to the streak that began on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3. "We recognized that and rightfully so."
James tried to spur yet another comeback in the final minutes, getting mad after a rough foul. But the reigning MVP could never get the defending champions even or, more importantly, ahead.
Luol Deng scored 28 points, Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 17 rebounds, and the Bulls brought the Heat's stampede 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."
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.
"We understand, probably more so later on in our careers, the significance of that. And then that was it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We took that moment to acknowledge it, to acknowledge each other, that experience, but it was never about the streak. We have a bigger goal, but also right now, it's about 'Are we getting better?'"
They walked off the floor stoically, not exchanging any handshakes or pleasantries with the Bulls. James slapped high-fives with a couple teammates and coaches, then glared at a fan who grabbed his head as he headed toward the tunnel leading to the visitors' locker room.
James was frustrated on the court at times, and showed more of the same in the locker room afterward with regard to how he's officiated.
He cited two instances from Wednesday alone — a play where Kirk Hinrich took him down with two hands in the first quarter, and Taj Gibson appearing to make contact around his neck with about 4 minutes remaining — where he thought the contact was excessive. Referees reviewed the Gibson hit, but did not award a flagrant foul. So, seconds later, James tried to barrel through Carlos Boozer on a screen, and got called for a Flagrant 1 himself.
"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.
"It's a five-second moment of reflection before we move on to the rest of the season," Dwyane 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 football's 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."
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