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U.S. Sports Desk, Mar 28 (EFE).- The Miami Heat fell a bit short of the record for most consecutive NBA regular-season wins, falling 101-97 against the short-handed Chicago Bulls in a playoff-like atmosphere at the United Center.
The Heat's streak came to a halt at 27 games - six shy of the mark set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers - in a game that left a bitter taste in the mouth of Miami superstar LeBron James, who lost his composure after weathering a series of hard fouls.
James said afterward that his team should feel proud of the streak and attributed Wednesday night's defeat in Chicago to excessively physical play that he said should not be allowed in a basketball game.
The reigning league MVP was visibly frustrated by the lack of foul calls on Bulls defenders and finally took out his frustration on Carlos Boozer when he tried to set a screen in the fourth quarter, barreling his 6'8", 250-pound frame into the Chicago power forward and picking up a flagrant foul.
Just as big of a story, though, was the Bulls' ability to get the ball in the bucket despite being without the services of three key players: center Joakim Noah and shooting guards Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton.
Luol Deng and Boozer led the way, scoring 28 points and 21 points, respectively.
The Bulls also took advantage of the Heat's lone Achilles' heel, outrebounding Miami 43-31 thanks in large part to Boozer's 17 boards.
Chicago held a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter but the Heat - as they had done multiple times during their streak - rallied in the second half and seemed poised to claim another victory with a late run.
The Bulls' aggressive defense and clutch shooting by Deng and Boozer, however, proved the difference down the stretch.
The Heat lost despite solid nights from their "Big 3," with James scoring 32 points and grabbing seven rebounds and Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade contributing 21 points and 18 points, respectively.
Despite the loss, the Heat still hold the best record in the NBA with a mark of 56-15. The Bulls stand in a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference at 39-31.
In other action around the league on Wednesday night, the Atlanta Hawks routed the Toronto Raptors 107-88, the Philadelphia 76ers topped the Milwaukee Bucks 100-92, the Boston Celtics edged the Cleveland Cavaliers 93-92, the Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Orlando Magic 114-108, and the New York Knicks held off the Memphis Grizzlies 108-101.
The Oklahoma City Thunder trounced the Washington Wizards 103-80, the Los Angeles Lakers edged the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-117, the Indiana Pacers topped the Houston Rockets 100-91, and the Los Angeles Clippers cruised past the New Orleans Hornets 105-91.
The San Antonio Spurs scraped past the Denver Nuggets 100-99, the Utah Jazz brushed aside the Phoenix Suns 103-88, the Sacramento Kings topped the Golden State Warriors 105-98, and the Brooklyn Nets routed the Portland Trail Blazers 111-93.