THE FACTS: The short-handed Chicago Bulls bullied LeBron James and the Miami Heat for the second time in three games this season, snapping their historic 27-game win streak with a 101-97 win Wednesday night in Chicago. This time they did it not only without Derrick Rose but also injured center Joakim Noah, along with guards Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton.
In the process, the Bulls reaffirmed the four-point plan to dethrone the defending champs -- play physical, move the ball (27 assists on 40 field goals), pound the boards (43-31 advantage) and, well, play physical. The tag team of Luol Deng (28 points, seven rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (21 points, 17 rebounds) had their way with the visitors for much of the night. Guards Jimmy Butler (14 points), Kirk Hinrich (six assists) and Nate Robinson (14 points) also played key roles.
James totaled 32 points, seven assists and four blocked shots. But, unlike in several games in the streak, he was unable to will the team to victory in the second half. So frustrated became James that, late in the fourth quarter, he threw a hard shoulder into Boozer and was assessed a flagrant foul, his first in six years. Chris Bosh added 21 points. Dwyane Wade scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds on a bum right foot, which he tweaked in the final minutes.
More bad news for the Eastern Conference leaders: guard Mario Chalmers landed awkwardly on his right foot in the fourth quarter and was seen in a walking boot afterward.
QUOTABLE: "For the first time, I mentioned the streak in front of the guys [afterward]. It was worthy of at least stepping back for those few short moments. It was a heck of an experience for all of us to have together. We'll understand probably more so later on in our careers, the significance of that."
-- Heat coach Erik Spoelstra
QUOTABLE II "Miami is a great team, and you have to play great from start to finish. Overall, we played from start to finish and stepped up."
-- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau
THE STAT: The second-best win streak in NBA history started on Sunday, Feb. 3 in Toronto, covered 1,306 minutes of playing time and lasted 53 days.
QUOTABLE III: "It was never about the streak with us. We have a bigger goal. Right now, it's about are we getting better?"
-- Erik Spoelstra
QUOTABLE IV: "Stop it. Just stop it. It's about winning championships. When you win six, you're in the discussion. Then we'll talk about it."
-- Bulls TV analyst Stacey King on any comparisons between this Heat team and former Bulls championship teams
TURNING POINT: James and company were in position to seize control through the fourth quarter, but Deng would have none of it. In a 55-second span, the home team went on a decisive 8-2 run, which Deng started and finished with 3-pointers to give his team an 83-75 advantage.
QUOTABLE V: "We really focused on moving the ball. We can't beat them holding the ball. Guys did a good job of finding each other."
-- Luol Deng
HOT: In the first period, the Bulls shot 58 percent (14-for-24) in the field en route to a 32-22 lead.
NOT: The winners were limited to 14 points in the third quarter but still clung to a 69-68 lead.
GOOD MOVE: The Bulls game plan called for a ban on dunks, the kind of momentum-makers that often fuel the Heat offense. Hinrich wasted no time to execute it. Four minutes into the game, the veteran grabbed James and pulled him to the ground rather than allow a clear path to the basket.
QUOTABLE VI: "Kirk Hinrich basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground. On the last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground. Those are not basketball plays. It has been happening all year and I've been able to keep my cool, but it is getting to me a little bit."
-- LeBron James
BAD MOVE: Spoelstra rolled the dice on forward Udonis Haslem with two fouls in the first period. The forward pushed off Boozer for his third foul with six minutes, 45 minutes left in the quarter and sat out the remainder of the half.
NOTABLE: Before the game, a moment of silence was observed in memory of former Bulls center Tom Boerwinkle, who passed away at 67 years of age. He spent 10 seasons with the team as a player and four more as a broadcaster. ... The Bulls clinched a postseason berth, while the Heat failed in their bid to nail down the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs. ... The Heat trailed in the fourth quarter for only the 36th game this season. ... Bulls swingman Butler entered the game with an average of 45.1 minutes in his first seven career starts, the third most for any player with at least three starts since the 1970-71 season. He logged 43 minutes in this one.
IN THE ARENA: Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp were among those in the 122nd consecutive sellout crowd at the United Center.
UP NEXT: For the Heat, Friday @ New Orleans, Sunday @ San Antonio, Tuesday vs. New York. For the Bulls, Saturday @ Dallas, Sunday vs. Detroit, Tuesday @ Washington.