The Miami Heat took in once last chance to relish their 2012-13 championship season. Then it was back to business.
The two-time defending NBA title-holders sent a clear message to one of the expected top challengers to their crown, using a torrid shooting display and a dominant second quarter to deal the Chicago Bulls a 107-95 loss in the season opener for both Eastern Conference contenders at American Airlines Arena.
Seven Miami players finished with double-figure points in a balanced offensive effort, and the Heat outscored the Bulls by a 37-18 margin during the pivotal second quarter to put their opponent at a substantial deficit it could never quite overcome.
Reigning league MVP LeBron James paced Miami’s spread-the-wealth attack with 17 points to go along with eight assists and six rebounds, while Chris Bosh netted 16 points and Shane Battier went 4-for-4 from 3-point range to contribute 14 points off the bench. As a team, the Heat hit on 11-of-20 attempts from beyond the arc and shot 51.4 percent overall.
Despite a 31-point outburst from Carlos Boozer, the return of Derrick Rose still produced an undesired outcome for the Bulls. The star point guard, playing in his first meaningful game since tearing his left ACL during the 2012 Eastern Conference playoffs, went just 4-for-15 from the field and had five turnovers while accumulating 12 points.
Luol Deng managed only four points in the loss while being saddled with foul trouble for much of the first half. Jimmy Butler scored 20 points for Chicago.
Following a lavish pregame ceremony and the unveiling of the franchise’s latest championship banner, the Heat started off slowly. Miami misfired on nine of its first 10 shot attempts in falling behind by a 9-2 score four minutes in, but caught fire during a second-quarter barrage that turned a close contest into a budding rout.
Miami knocked down four 3-pointers during a 13-0 run that staked the reigning champs to a 23-18 lead with a minute elapsed in the period, and the Heat ripped off 17 consecutive points later in the frame to open up a 41-20 advantage with under 4 1/2 minutes to go in the half.
The Heat cruised into the break owning a commanding 54-33 cushion behind a 63.2 percent shooting clip for the second quarter, which included a 5-for-5 success rate from beyond the arc.
Chicago, on the other hand, went an off-target 6-for-20 from the field for the frame while turning the ball over six times.
The Heat continued to lead comfortably entering the game’s final six minutes, though Chicago put forth a late charge to at least make it interesting. A 7-0 spurt capped by a Kirk Hinrich trey pulled the Bulls within 91-79, and the differential was later whittled down to eight after Boozer drove the lane and scored to make it a 95-87 game with 2:46 remaining.
Battier sank a clutch triple with 1:33 left to give the Heat some breathing room at 100-89, however, and both James and Bosh came through with big shots late to help keep the Bulls at bay.