Wednesday night. Miami at Cleveland. The Heat's epic win streak in serious jeopardy, as the lowly Cavs surged to a 27-point third quarter lead.
And you could almost see the relief on Erik Spoelstra's face.
Miami's coach would have been perfectly content to end the streak at 24, to take all pressure off his team as the playoffs approach and to give him the opportunity to rest key players down the stretch. After all, the Heat have already clinched the Southeast Division. They've got an 11.5 game lead over second-place Indiana for the top seed in the East ... with 15 games remaining. It would take a disaster of Hindenburg proportions to knock them out of the top spot. And while LeBron James is only a little less durable than Wolverine, the other two thirds of Miami's "big three" - Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - have extensive injury histories.
Given the choice, I'm sure Spoelstra would be very happy to take a loss, and then put Wade, Bosh, and Ray Allen on modified duty for the rest of the season. Not that he'd admit that with Miami chasing the Lakers' all-time NBA record for consecutive wins.
But LeBron and company took that option away. In the second half, they played like the squad we've come to know and love (or is it fear), erasing the deficit and surging to a 98-95 win.
It seems likely that they'll make it 25 straight on Friday in Detroit. And with Charlotte, Orlando, Chicago, and New Orleans on the schedule after that, odds are good that the streak lasts for at least another week.
The biggest obstacle to tying the record is probably their game in San Antonio on Easter Sunday.
They could hit 33 straight - and tie the all-time mark - on April 6 against Philly and break it against the Bucks on April 9th.
And once that happens, Spoelstra will finally be able to get his regulars some rest. The lineup for the April 10th game against the Wizards may well feature Spoelstra, Pat Riley, Billy the Marlin, and Gloria Estefan.
Speaking of rest - and lack thereof - Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is notorious in league circles for asking key players to log significant minutes, even when playing through injury. Don't ask me ... ask Luol Deng.
I can't help wondering if that isn't a big factor in Derrick Rose's apparent reluctance to return to the floor.
Rose is now on the record as saying God will decide when he'll suit up for the Bulls. I'm no theologian, but I suspect God is thinking "Fall, 2013."
Picks for the Week
All percent-owned stats are from Yahoo! Your league's mileage may vary.
Tony Parker (92%) - Parker will return to action on Friday, for the first time since March 1.
Pau Gasol (85%) - Gasol is also slated to return on Friday, and will "probably" (Mike D'Antoni's word) start.
Amir Johnson (67%) - Johnson has been grabbing boards like an absolute fiend, and the fact that Andrea Bargnani is done for the year makes him a much safer investment.
Spencer Hawes (55%) - On a tear of late - averaging over 17 points, 12 boards, six assists, and four blocks in his last four games. This hot stretch coincides with the news that Andrew Bynum won't be suiting up for the Sixers this year, which surely is not a coincidence.
Jeff Green (53%) - Green is scoring just under 16 points per game since the start of February, though the Celtics would like to see him rebound more (4.2 rpg in that same span).
Corey Brewer (23%) - Brewer is developing into a quality bench scorer for the Nuggets, with an average just under 15 ppg for the month of March. His value gets a boost in the short term while Wilson Chandler recovers from a minor shoulder injury.
Steve Blake (6%) - Blake should return to the Lakers' rotation on Friday - along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Itís hard to say exactly how much he'll contribute, as the Lakers haven't had their top six players available at the same time very much this year.
Kenyon Martin (3%) - With Tyson Chandler unavailable, Martin has become one of the Knicks' most important bigs and should continue to log significant minutes.