The ceremony before the game was memorable, but it was nothing compared to the spectacle that followed once the ball finally began bouncing on opening night.
Mario Chalmers picked Derrick Rose’s pocket on the point guard’s first regular-season possession since injuring his knee and, not long after, the Heat began pouring in the points to give its fans a blowout, 107-95, in the first regular-season game after winning back-to-back titles.
For the NBA, Tuesday night was billed as Rose’s return to form and the rekindling of a rivalry between the Heat and Bulls.
It was neither of those things.
It was all about the rings and the return of the city’s love affair with this team.
“You never know what to expect and we wanted to the keep the main thing the main thing and that’s the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That was one of our more mature, team-oriented games.”
It was also more proof that the Heat is the best basketball team on the planet.
Wearing gold on white jerseys to commemorate its pregame ring ceremony, the Heat jumped off to a 54-33 lead in the first half and then cruised through the final two periods.
Evidence that the team’s chemistry is well ahead of schedule for this early in the season: seven players scored in double figures with LeBron James leading the team in scoring with 17 points.
“The ball just went to the open guy,” Spoelstra said.
Said James: “It was just great balance. No one cares about individual numbers. It’s a team game and that’s what this team was put together for. Everyone feels important on the floor.”
Chalmers’ steal off Rose on the Bulls’ first possession of the game ended with an open-court dunk by Udonis Haslem and the arena exploded with noise.
The Heat scored only six points in the first six minutes of the game, but a torrent of offense in the second quarter by the Heat’s bench sparked the blowout.
“We’re just trying to focus on the details,” Spoelstra said of Chalmers’ steal.
Led by reserve and three-point specialist Shane Battier, the Heat outscored the Bulls 37-18 in the second quarter. A free throw by Rose with 8:31 left in the period cut the Heat’s lead to four points before the Heat took control. An 18-foot jump shot by reserve point guard Norris Cole started a 21-4 run for the Heat, which ended on a three-pointer by Ray Allen.
“We just made sure we kept pressure on them, but it’s early in the season,” said Allen, who was 3 of 6 from three-point range. “I don’t think you can say anyone played great. We just got the win.”
It was a convincing display of the Heat’s depth, considering the Heat led 41-20 after Allen’s three-pointer despite starters James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers beginning the game 7 of 24 from the field.
The Heat went with the same nine-player rotation that linked together 27 consecutive victories last season. Battier, Cole, Allen and Chris Andersen were the only reserves to play and they outscored the Bulls’ bench 42-26.
Battier led the reserves with 14 points, going 5 of 6 from the field and 4 of 4 from three-point range. Allen and Cole each scored 11 points and Andersen finished with six points, including two dunks off beautiful passes from James. Cole had seven rebounds and three assists while going 5 of 7 from the field for 11 points. In the second quarter, Cole’s crossover against Rose sent the former MVP to the ground.
“I made a good move,” Cole said. “It happens to everyone in basketball. … When you’re playing hard defense against guards who are quick and shifty, things like that can happen. It happens to everyone.”
The first of Andersen’s dunks was an alley-oop from James with 20.7 seconds left in second quarter. James later found Andersen with a no-look pass as Andersen cut to the basket. The dunk put the Heat ahead 78-58 with 3.1 seconds left in the period.
Led by Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler, the Bulls cut the Heat’s fourth-quarter lead to eight points, but a three-pointer by Battier gave Miami a 100-89 lead with 1:33 to play.
Rose, playing in his first game since tearing the anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee during the 2012 playoffs, finished with 12 points and went 4 of 15 from the field. Boozer had 31 points and was 13 of 18 shooting. Butler had 20 points, going 6 of 12 from the field.
James was 5 of 11 from the field and 7 of 9 from the free-throw line on the night he received the second ring of his career. He also had eight assists and six rebounds. Bosh had 16 points, going 6 of 11 from the field and 1 of 2 from three-point range. Wade and Chalmers each finished with 13 points. Wade was 5 of 13 from the field.
“I moved the way I wanted to move, so it was a good test for the first game,” Wade said. “It’s going to be an even bigger test now going on the back-to-back, but I feel I can pull it off.”
Allen’s seven assists were the most he has dished out since joining the Heat. … Chalmers’ five steals in the first half were a franchise record for opening night.