Wednesday night in the Windy City, the Miami Heat saw their 27-game winning streak get snapped by the hometown Chicago Bulls and this game created more far more discussion than just the end of a great run. There are several things to take from this game and how they are applied going forward has meaning not only for the Bulls, the Heat and the NBA itself but also for you as a bettor.
First, the streak must be appreciated regardless of the teams the Heat defeated during the run and regardless of the era in which they did it. Many talking heads have questioned just where this Miami Heat accomplishment lies in the annals of sports history simply because the Eastern Conference is pretty bad.
Look, it’s difficult to win 27-straight whether it’s in the NBA, college basketball or the local church youth league so that needs to be respected. Miami gave NBA fans some great moments along the streak and the fact it was provided by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade makes it that much better for everyone involved.
Secondly, I have to wonder if the Chicago Bulls haven’t provided a blueprint for getting under the Miami Heat’s skin. Ironically earlier in the day, former Detroit Pistons’ ‘Bad Boy’ Bill Laimbeer was on Jay Mohr Sports talking about how the NBA has virtually made it impossible to intimidate and harass teams the way they once did.
This was exactly what the Bulls did on Wednesday night and it was clear that James in particular was not at the top of his game because of it. I wouldn’t say there were any take-downs reminiscent of the old Pistons or mid-1990’s New York Knicks, but it was clear to me that Chicago went into the game with an attitude of aggressiveness and it paid off.
James and the Heat not only lost, but James came off afterward like a spoiled brat who didn’t get his way in the loss. Late in the game of course James apparently had had enough when he lowered his shoulder into Carlos Boozer while Boozer set a screen. Boozer had none of it and immediately jawed at James in the aftermath.
Earlier in the game, James had been taken down on two separate drives to the basket and both were clearly aggressive and intentional shots to keep him from finishing the play, but LeBron needs to stop and think about things before whining afterwards. Much like Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski was panned for whining about crowd control after a loss at Virginia, James should have received equal treatment.
LeBron must realize that superstars like him will always get the benefit of the doubt on calls. Traveling for instance is nearly non-existent thanks Michael Jordan and any time there is a 50-50 call it always goes the way of the superstar. James can whine all he wants to about the physical play, but he can’t have it both ways.
Or can he?
Let’s face it, do any of us really think David Stern would allow James and company to not play their style of basketball right through to the NBA Finals? The answer is no. Stern has seen what San Antonio-Detroit finals’ match-ups do for ratings.
What the game means for you is looking carefully at lines and over/unders for remaining Heat games. If other teams adopt this mentality of aggressive play against Miami and it flies, then you need to adjust accordingly. Commissioner Stern has already gone through his ‘Roger Goodell period’ of softening the game and he will more than likely not allow the tough fouls on superstars very long. For now though, Miami better be ready hard fouls moving forward.