Heat | Bench players

In opener against Bulls, Heat finds energy from reserves

 

The Heat bench gave the defending champs a boost on offense and a burst of activity on the defensive side.

bjackson@MiamiHerald.com

The Heat’s bench appears deeper than a year ago, but last season’s key reserves reiterated with their play on Tuesday that they’re still plenty good enough.

Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Norris Cole and Chris Anderson emphatically conveyed that message on opening night.

Coach Erik Spoelstra stuck with the same rotation that carried Miami through a triumphant NBA Finals, and it worked splendidly on championship ring night.

When healthy, Greg Oden figures to be added to that group, in short doses.

Consider: When Miami’s top four reserves were on the court together Tuesday (paired with either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade), the Heat outscored the Bulls 33-23, including an 18-5 first-half burst that turned into an early deficit into a sizable lead.

Battier picked up where he left off in Game 7 of the Finals, when he sank 6 of 8 three-pointers after shooting just 22.4 percent on threes in the playoffs before that point.

Battier shot 5 for 6 on Tuesday (4 for 4 on threes) on a 14-point night.

“When the bench is making shots, the game expands for Chris [Bosh], Dwyane and LeBron,” Battier said.

Cole was ubiquitous, a whirlwind of activity. He made 5 of 7 shots — including a three — hauled in seven rebounds, grabbed a steal, dished out three assists, played swarming defense and provided constant energy.

No wonder the Heat outscored the Bulls by 17 when he was on the court, highest on the team. In fact, the Heat’s top four backups had the best plus-minus ratios on the team.

“That’s our job as bench players, to bring that spark,” Cole said.

Andersen looked like vintage Birdman, with eight rebounds, two blocks, two steals and six points. And Allen contributed 11 points and seven assists.

With James paired with the top four reserves, the Heat outscored the Bulls, 10-4, including a no-look pass from James to Andersen for a dunk to close the third quarter.

When the four top backups were on the court with Wade, Miami outscored the Bulls 23-19.

The Bulls’ top reserves — Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy, Nazr Mohammad and rookie Tony Snell — opened 1 for 14 from the field and closed 9 for 26.

Overall, the Heat’s bench outscored Chicago’s 42-26.

• Oden and Roger Mason Jr. were the two players on the Heat’s inactive list.

ROSE’S RETURN

Bulls guard Derrick Rose, fully recovered from a serious knee injury, had a lackluster game in his first regular-season appearance since April 2012. Rose (12 points) was rusty on defense and finished 4 for 15 from the field, with five turnovers and three assists.

“They have a great defense [but] I couldn’t get untracked,” he said.

Hours earlier, Rose said: “I think I’m way better as a player” than before his injury. “My IQ has gotten higher and just the way that I play, I think I’m a more efficient player.”

Center Joakim Noah said the Heat “did a good job of trapping him on every pick and roll.”

Postgame reaction

After the game, Noah said the night was “disappointing” because “we really want to beat those guys. For Game 1, their execution was pretty impressive, but we really made a lot of mistakes. They kicked out butt. No excuses. We wanted to ruin their party. [But] I really believe in this team. The potential for us is crazy.”

LeBron title talk

James reiterated before the game that winning a third consecutive title is “going to be tough because every team got better. Indiana, Brooklyn, New York. Even Washington, Cleveland bulked up, too.”

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