On a night where the Miami Heat received their rings and the Chicago Bulls received their former MVP point guard, it turned out that the narratives leading into the game were more of a show than the contest itself.
The Heat initiated their title defense with a 107-95 victory that was far more of a blowout than the score indicates. Miami had seven players score in double-figures, with LeBron James leading the way with 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting to go along with eight assists and six rebounds.
James was quiet for most of the night against a Chicago team that was disappointed to know that Derrick Rose has yet to fully acclimate back to the NBA after a 15-month absence. He made only 4 of his 15 shot attempts and finished with 12 points, five turnovers and four assists.
Rose was largely outplayed most of the night by both of the Heat’s point guards, notably Norris Cole, who shot 5-of-7 to finish with 11 points, as well as seven boards and three assists, and had a moment in the spotlight when he sent Rose to the floor on a right-to-left crossover.
Chalmers only made three shots, but finished with 13 points thanks to 6-of-7 free throw shooting. He also came up with five steals, all in the first half, and four assists.
It was the role players who played a significant role throughout, helping the Heat build a 21-point lead by the half. A 13-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters and a 17-0 run that took place midway through the second were all the Heat needed to blow the doors off a Bulls team that struggled on offense.
Prior to a 37-point fourth quarter, the Bulls only scored 58 points through 36 minutes, and 33 through 24 minutes.
The Heat were up by as much as 25 points with 10:49 left in the fourth, but a string of three consecutive three-pointers cut the lead to 15 with 7:16 left. The lead dipped to eight with 2:46 left following Carlos Boozer’s jumper, but a pair of free throws from LeBron and a three by Shane put the game on ice for good.
Battier’s hot shooting from Games 6 and 7 carried over as he made all four of his three-point attempts, finishing with 14 points overall. Game 6 savior Ray Allen made three of his six three-pointers to finish with 11.
Miami shot 11-of-20 from three as a team. Even Dwyane Wade got in on the act with the game’s final points. Bosh also hit one and finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
Miami’s bench outscored Chicago’s 42-26. As much hype as there has been propping up the Bulls amid Rose’s return, there are severely apparent holes in their bench, starting with Mike Dunleavy as a significant contributor.
The Heat showcased no such problems. Battier, Allen and Cole were all in midseason form. Chris Andersen also had his moments, throwing down the Heat’s first alley-oop of the season off a LeBron assist to close out the second half and another dunk off a pick-and-roll to end the third.
‘Birdman’ finished with six points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
The Bulls were led by Boozer’s 31 points, but they only got a combined six points on 3-of-12 shooting from Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. Jimmy Butler contributed 20 points and had five steals.
Miami played with ferocity on the defensive end for the first 36 minutes. Their swarming, controlled panic and constantly rotating defense forced Chicago into difficult jumpers and turnovers, especially in that second quarter where the Bulls were subject to a 31-5 run.
It’s those runs that enable the Heat to 66-win seasons and back-to-back championships. It’s reassuring to know that they are still capable of it, even though it was never in doubt.
Miami opens the season with a back-to-back that takes them to Philadelphia where they play a Sixers team that may challenge their own history of worst record in a full season in NBA history this season.