MIAMI (AP) -- They got their championship rings, saw the
postseason highlights played on giant video screens and watched a
new banner swing from the arena's rafters.
Everything was perfect for the Miami Heat.
And then the game began.
Kirk Hinrich scored 26 points, Chris Duhon added 20 and the
Chicago Bulls emphatically spoiled Miami's celebratory mood,
beating the defending NBA champion Heat 108-66 in Tuesday night's
"Welcome back to reality," Heat coach Pat Riley said.
"Obviously it was absolutely one-sided. There isn't really much to
say, other than we do know and there has been a gauge put on how
much work we have to do."
It was -- by far -- the worst loss in NBA history for a defending
champion on opening night; the previous low was the Los Angeles
Lakers' 132-117 defeat to Golden State on Oct. 29, 1982. The Lakers
went on that season to win 58 games and return to the NBA Finals
Chicago seized command with a 37-14 second-quarter burst, a
stretch where the Bulls connected on 79 percent of their shots --
compared to 29 percent for the Heat, who simply never got rolling.
The lead was 59-30 at halftime and just kept growing.
"I'd be saying the same thing if we got beat. I'd say it's one
game," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We have all the respect in
the world for them and they have something that we eventually want
to get. This one game is not indicative, I don't think, in any way
of what kind of season they are going to have."
Dwyane Wade had 25 points before sitting out much of the fourth
quarter for Miami, which didn't even have anyone else reach double
figures. The Heat turned the ball over 23 times, leading to 32
Chicago points and were outrebounded 49-29.
"I don't know how much getting the rings had to do with it,"
said Hinrich, who signed a five-year extension hours before tipoff.
"That probably had something to do with it. But we're excited.
It's a good start."
Luol Deng had 12 points and Thabo Sefolosha -- the league's first
player from Switzerland -- added 11 on 4-of-4 shooting for Chicago.
It wasn't the worst all-time loss for a reigning champion, but
it sure came close: Orlando beat Chicago 115-68 on April 2, 1999,
and that 47-point margin is the biggest defeat for a reigning
titleholder, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"We'll be all right," said Heat center Shaquille O'Neal, who
had only seven points and five rebounds. "Long season."
The Heat donned the same red uniforms they wore June 20 in
Dallas when they won the franchise's first title, and got their
rings in an elaborate pregame ceremony capped by raising the
commemorative banner to the rafters.
The championship feel was there.
The championship play was not.
"In some cases, the home team gets their rings and goes blub,
blub, blub, blub because they're so pumped," said NBA commissioner
David Stern, who handed out the jewelry to the Heat players,
coaches and staff before the game. "I've been to a couple of
The teams last met in the first round of last season's playoffs,
when the Bulls frustrated the Heat often before finally falling to
the eventual champs in six games.
The Bulls had their way with the Heat this time around.
Wade hit a 3-pointer with 4:12 left in the opening quarter to
draw Miami within 17-13. But Chicago -- fueled by Heat turnovers and
foul trouble -- went on a 17-6 run over the next 7 minutes, building
a 15-point lead. And not coincidentally, the Bulls had 15 points
off 11 Miami turnovers to that point.
It was 51-28 after Walker made a free throw with 1:42 left in
the half, but Duhon hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Chicago a
29-point lead. Apparently undeterred, Skiles picked up a technical
foul for arguing a call with referee Bernie Fryer.
That was about the last thing Skiles had to be upset about.
Miami never got closer than 22 in the third quarter, and the
outcome was in no doubt from there.
"Obviously, this is a total embarrassment," Heat center Alonzo
Mourning said. "We're better than what we showed out there
tonight. I know things will get better before they get worse. Just
kind of unfortunate, in our home opener, that we came out with this
kind of showing."
The Bulls' Andres Nocioni
and Wade each got technicals for arguing about foul calls. ...
Before Miami's ring ceremony, a moment of silence was held in honor
of Boston Celtics legend Red Auerbach, who died Saturday.
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