The junior-varsity portion of the winning streak had its moments.

It let the Heat toy with significant deficits against significantly shorthanded opponents.

It allowed Dwyane Wade take the past two games off to rest his sore right knee.

It afforded the opportunity to tease the Orlando Magic on Monday night before setting them straight at the end of the third quarter with the swiftness of a LeBron James dunk, a Chris Andersen block and a Ray Allen 3-pointer.

But now it gets real, and for more than standing within six victories of matching the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' NBA-record 33-game winning streak.

Because the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night at the United Center will be everything the feeble Magic were not on Monday night, when the Heat pushed the winning streak to 27 with a 108-94 combo victory/alley-oop fest.

And the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, on the final stop of this four-game trip, certainly will be more than what the Heat this past week faced against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats.

Now it gets real. Both the chase for the record, and the level of competition.

That the challenges come on the road, forward Shane Battier said, make this an even more significant moment, even if the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is all but clinched, now one Heat victory or one Knicks loss away.

"I think we've have enough struggles on the road," Battier said, not wanting at this late stage of the season to return to where the Heat stood just before midseason, a .500 road team that couldn't leave home with confidence. "We've turned our road record around. I think there is almost an inherent fear that we're going to go back to that. And so I think that keeps us pretty motivated and it keeps us on edge."