Sunday was a good day to lounge on the couch, remote-hand alert and ready. Two notable streaks in the two major winter sports simultaneously hung in jeopardy. I cleared all obstacle that stood between me and the box, the "Last" button was set and double checked, and I was primed for TV toggling.
On NBC, the mighty Chicago Blackhawks tried to extend their awe-inspiring pursuit of regular time, regular season perfection against the rival Red Wings. On ABC, the villainous Miami Heat faced the Knicks, hoping to continue their 13 game winning streak over prouder opponents that never recklessly abandoned the American way to bandwagon in pursuit of false accomplishment and bravado.
The challengers showed their worth, throwing punches and taking commanding control with the support of a raucous home crowd. Jimmy Howard was stopping everything in sight. Within 3 minutes of the start of the final period, Tomas Tatar snapped home Joakim Andersson's behind the net pass and sent the Detroit fans into a frenzy. Meanwhile, in New York, J.R. Smith hit a 3 to extend the lead to an intimidating 9 points. Then Carmelo hits a shot, Carmelo assists on a dunk, and Carmelo hits all 3 free throws after a foul. Madison Square Garden looked to have recaptured it's magic.
But there's a strange feeling of inevitability when watching greatness. In the words of Omar Little, "You come at the King, you best not miss." I watched NBC optimistically, waiting for the opportunity that always seems to rise at the exact right moment for the Hawks to take advantage. I watched ABC dreading the turnovers and missed 3s I was sure would come for the Knicks. The tiniest mistake incites the nerves when you're trying to defeat perfection. It may seem like hindsight to some, but you feel it in the moment. It's a microscopic shift of the tide that means nothing yet, but feels like everything. All you can do is watch and accept, "Well, here we go."
Miami's moment happened quickly. Iman Shumpert stood at the free throw line with the opportunity to confidently extend the lead to 17. Instead, he missed, and Lebron got the rebound and a basket on the other end leaving the Knicks an entire halftime to think about him. Chris Bosh started the second half with a three point play. In a quick quarter, Miami was down 4 and the writing was on the wall.
In Detroit, with the Joe Louis arena rocking and octopus salesmen stocking their cash registers, the Red Wings' shift was much more obvious. With a mere 2:25 remaining in the game and a one-goal lead, Jonathan Ericsson attempted a clear that flew like a drunken Whip Whitfield and several rows into the stands. Power play Chicago. I set the remote down for this.
A relentless attack culminated with the puck ending up on the Hawks' star's stick, and Patrick Kane fired the puck into the top shelf. Tie game.
With New York clinging to a 6 point lead, the other superstar made his move. Lebron hit a 3 point jumper, got the ball back and hit another 3 point jumper. Tie game.
The Red Wings and Knicks both revealed the cracks in their foundations. It was up to the superstars to finish it off. Once these tying shots hit their respective nets, we fans knew how it would end. Each of them had one more highlight to top it off. Lebron slammed down an emphatic dunk.
Kane put Flubber on his puck and made Jimmy Howard pee a little.
Chicagoans breathed a collective sigh of relief. Miami fans ordered another daiquiri and asked if anybody knew who was winning.
Both teams extended their streaks by one, and both at Minnesota’s expense. The Blackhawks already made history with the longest point streak to start a season, and now pursue the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers for the longest of all time with 35. Lebron looks to catch the player he’s oft compared, as the Heat approach Magic’s 1971-72 Lakers’ record of 33 straight victories. Until either is knocked off their throne, you can catch me regularly tuning into CSN or scanning the schedule trying to convince myself the Raptors can pull an upset.