MINNEAPOLIS — The 1971-72 Lakers can exhale. Their 33-game winning streak is still the NBA’s longest.
The current crop of Lakers took some pride in its preservation after the Miami Heat’s streak ended at 27 with a 101-97 loss Wednesday to the Chicago Bulls.
Some players were even happy.
“In a big way, I am,” said Pau Gasol, who in his six seasons with the Lakers has become friends with the coach of that ’71-72 team, Bill Sharman. “I’m glad that we kept the streak. It was about time that Miami lost.”
The Heat put together a string of come-from-behind victories to prolong its winning ways since a Feb. 1 loss to Indiana, but it finally ended against Chicago as Bulls fans chanted “End of streak! End of streak!”
The Lakers (37-35) have been pretty preoccupied in recent weeks trying to keep their heads above .500. Most of them still kept at least a casual eye on the Heat streak.
“I guess now that it’s over, it’s kind of nice that the Lakers still have it,” Steve Blake said.
Kobe Bryant, in his 17th season with the Lakers, was diplomatic.
“I think as a student of the game, as a fan of the game, you appreciate those kind of streaks,” he said. “You realize how difficult it is to put together that big of a streak. Obviously, the Lakers winning 33 in a row was phenomenal. The Heat’s run was just as impressive.”
The present-day Lakers weren’t lighting up cigars to commemorate the continued life of the 41-year old record. It didn’t even matter that they also beat Minnesota on Wednesday, 120-117.
Said Blake: “We have too many other things for ourselves to worry about.”
Laker great Jerry West, who was a guard on that team, told ESPN on Wednesday that he thought the Heat were going to surpass the Lakers’ record.
“I really thought they were going to do it,” West told the website. “I really did.
“It’s a remarkable streak. I wasn’t rooting against them at all. At halftime [of the Chicago game], I thought they were going to win the game. But all you need sometimes is a few things to go wrong.
“I think they’re looking for bigger fish to fry. You know they’re trying to win another championship, so I think this is just a blip in the road for them. But this [streak] was great for basketball. It was a great accomplishment. It creates incredible fan interest.
“People will talk about this forever.”
Flagrant activity Strange reversal: The NBA retroactively assessed David Lee a flagrant 1 foul on the play in which Howard was called for a personal foul in the Lakers’ game Monday against Golden State.
Howard needed three stitches in his lower lip after taking an elbow from Lee late in the second quarter. Referees at the time ruled that Howard committed the foul on Lee’s drive, not the other way around. Howard was also hit with a technical foul for protesting the play.
“It’s all good,” Howard said Wednesday. “The only thing I could do was come back next game, dominate and not focus on the bad stuff.”
He did, scoring 25 points on nine-for-13 shooting and taking 16 rebounds against Minnesota.
Howard was plenty unhappy with Lee, though, after Monday’s game.
“He got away with a shot, so I’ll remember this game and I’ll remember that shot,” Howard said at the time. -Mike Bresnahan Melissa Rohlin contributed to this report