I can honestly say that I have never been happier to see a team lose than when I watched the Bulls beat the Heat 101-97 last Wednesday night. No D. Rose, no Joakim Noah, no problem for Chicago.
It was even better than when the Patriots (who I absolutely despise with every inch of my being) lost Super Bowl XLII against the Giants to prevent their perfect season.
Last Wednesday night was just perfect in every way: Lakers won a close game 120-117 over the Timberwolves to snap their three game losing streak, and, more importantly, the Heat finally got their 27 game win streak snapped. It is safe to say that for that one night, the Chicago Bulls were my favorite team in the NBA. Sorry Lakers nation, but I’m back to normal now, promise.
Being a Lakers fan, of course I didn’t want to see the ’71-’72 Laker’s streak of 33 straight wins get surpassed, but that isn’t even the main reason I was so happy to see Miami lose. Call me “jealous” or a “hater” if you want, but if I had to turn on ESPN and listen to two hours of news and debates about the streak for any longer, there was no telling what I was going to do. Everything about the Heat just pisses me off. I think it started when they had that stupid, immature coming out party/parade/celebration back in 2010 to introduce the “Big 3.” “Not one, not two, not three, not…” Okay, shut up LeBron! You didn’t see the Celtics parading around like that when they signed their big three. I have to admit that I hate the Celtics as well, but at least I respect them. Anyways, back to the point.
Let me just say that I’m certainly not taking away from the accomplishment of winning 27 games in a row. In today’s age, that is absolutely incredible, even if they did get lucky by not having to face other superstars such as Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Kevin Garnett, Derek Rose and Kyrie Irving all because of injury. It may take away from the quality of the win streak, but nevertheless, 27 wins in a row is impressive in any sport, and I commend them for that. But I honestly think that even if it were the Lakers that had the streak, I still would have been sick of hearing about it. Was there really nothing else to talk about in the sports world other than the Heat’s winning streak? What about the Nugget’s impressive 15 game win streak? After Miami got to 23 straight wins and sealed their spot as the second longest streak ever, the media should have waited until they at least got to 30 games before blowing it up the way they did.
If I was a Heat fan though, it’s not the streak being snapped that I would be hanging my head the most about. Rather, it’s the fact that the secret to beating the Heat has been revealed: hustle and physicality.
What I saw from the Bulls that night was nothing special. No tricks, genius schemes or secrets, just energy and determination. I saw little Nate Robinson out-hustle the Heat on his way to 11 first half points. I saw the Heat get absolutely embarrassed on the boards, even without Noah on the court, leading to multiple second and third chance points for the Bulls. Last but not least, I definitely saw, and hopefully the rest of you did as well because it was epic, Jimmy Butler straight up humiliate and posterize Chris Bosh in the third quarter on an alley-oop dunk in which Bosh was late getting back on defense. Hustle plays like that occurred all game for the Bulls. It was clear that they wanted to kill the streak more than Miami wanted to keep it alive.
More important than the hustle plays though was the level of physicality that the Heat couldn’t match. Hard foul after hard foul on the Heat, especially LeBron, was the story line of the game in my eyes. From when Hinrich literally tackled LeBron in the beginning of the game, to when Taj Gibson came down hard on LeBron in the lane in the fourth quarter, it was obvious the Heat were not used to being challenged like that. LeBron even got himself a flagrant foul when he threw a bow at Carlos Boozer while fighting through a screen. All it took was a few hard fouls on LeBron to get him rattled and make a bad decision that costed his team. Good thing he didn’t play back when Bird and Jordan played because he wouldn’t have lasted 10 games.
“First of all, Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground,” James said. “The last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground. Those are not defensive … those are not basketball plays.” Coming from a 6 ft. 8 inch, 280 pound freak of nature that scores a good amount of his points by putting his head down and barreling through the lane and bulldozing anyone who is in his path, that is a bit hypocritical and I have no sympathy for him. I have never heard a coach or player complain or whine to the officials about LeBron’s reckless style.
LeBron and the rest of the Heat better get used to that level of intensity if they want to make it through the playoffs. After seeing that game, every coach around the league is going to be coming after them just like the Bulls did. Especially since LeBron showed that he can’t handle getting fouled hard without throwing a fit during the game and then crying about it after the game.