Heat ring in new season
Updated: 2013-10-31 07:16
By Associated Press in Miami (China Daily)
After blocking a shot by Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose, Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade falls to the court during the second half of their NBA season-opener in Miami on Tuesday. Following a pregame ceremony to mark last season's championship, the Heat held off Rose and the Bulls to post a 107-95 victory. J Pat Carter / Associated Press
Miami squanders big lead but hangs on to beat feisty Bulls
They got their rings before the game, then a challenge as it was winding down.
The Miami Heat responded to both.
Shane Battier went 4-for-4 from 3-point range, including a critical one from the right corner with 1:33 remaining, and the Heat wasted most of what was a 25-point lead before holding off Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 107-95 on Tuesday night in the NBA season-opener for both teams.
"You never know what to expect when you're trying to focus on the main thing - and that's the game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the pre-game celebration.
"But you can't deny the emotions and what a special moment it was for everybody in the organization because we know how difficult that was last season. So it was great to get the win to cap off a very good night for the Miami Heat."
LeBron James had 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds for Miami, which got its 2013 NBA championship rings and raised the franchise's third banner before the tipoff.
The Heat trailed 9-2 early, then outscored Chicago 52-24 over the remainder of the first half.
Rose finished with 12 points in 34 minutes in his first game since a serious knee injury in April 2012. Carlos Boozer had 31 points and seven rebounds for Chicago, which got within eight points in the final minutes.
But Battier's right-corner three - a staple for the Heat - snuffed out the comeback, and Miami wasn't in trouble again.
"We're not trying to pull close. There were a lot of corrections that we have to make," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
"It always comes back to the same thing - our defense and our rebounding. And if we could have taken better care of the ball early on, we would have been in position to win down the stretch."
Chris Bosh scored 16 points, Battier finished with 14 and Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers each had 13 for Miami, which had seven players score in double figures. Ray Allen and Norris Cole each scored 11 for Miami.
Rose shot 4-for-15 for the Bulls.
By halftime, Miami was rolling, up 54-33 - putting the game on pace for a 108-66 final, which would have matched the score of the game in 2006 when Chicago came into Miami and spoiled the Heat franchise's first ring night.
Not this time - though the Bulls made it plenty interesting down the stretch.
"It's a team game," James said. "That's what this team is put together for."
Pau Gasol and Steve Nash watched the entire fourth quarter from the bench. Kobe Bryant sat one row behind them in a black shirt and suit.
The Lakers' three veteran stars were spectators for one remarkable show put on by five Lakers reserves who weren't ready to cede Los Angeles supremacy to their Staples Center rivals.
Xavier Henry scored a career-high 22 points, Jordan Farmar added 16, and the Lakers surged past the Los Angeles Clippers in the final minutes for a 116-103 victory in both clubs' season opener on Tuesday night.
By the time the Lakers' reserves were done with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, coach Doc Rivers' Clippers debut was wrecked - and so were many preconceptions about the Lakers' prospects this season. The Lakers' 76 bench points were the most in club history since March 1985.
"It's not a bad thing to be the underdog sometimes," said Jodie Meeks, who scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. "No expectations. We go out there and play hard. What's the worst that can happen? We lose, and people say we're no good?"
The Lakers' 41-point fourth quarter was downright stunning, but the identities of the players responsible for this exciting, free-flowing opener were even more jaw-dropping.
"Mike (D'Antoni) did a great thing: He didn't bring his starters back in," Rivers said. "There was a point where I was thinking: 'Please bring them back in.'"
A team that was 28th in the NBA in reserve scoring last season got outstanding bench play from a five-man unit, including three guys who weren't even on the team last season: Wesley Johnson, two-time NBA champion Farmar, and Henry, the former first-round pick who burned out in Memphis and New Orleans.
A new season is a chance for a fresh start, and Henry needs one just as much as the Lakers. He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter while leading a 28-8 run.
"We're a deep team, and people don't think we're that good," Henry said. "That always fuels us. People are saying we're going to finish 12th or whatever, but we have a great group of guys who go out there and play hard. We're young. We're athletic. We get after it."
The long-established hoops hierarchy in Los Angeles flipped earlier this year: The Clippers won a division title and became championship contenders, while the Lakers lost their stars to injury or free agency and prepared for a long rebuilding process.
At least in the opener, the Lakers flipped it again - and embarrassed Rivers in the process.
"We were not ready tonight," said Rivers, the longtime Celtics coach who hopes to push the Clippers into title contention. "(The Lakers) have heard for probably the last two months how good (the Clippers) were going to be ... so you knew that they were going to play like this was the world championship - with that type of energy. And I thought we never matched it. Everything they did was harder than us and more physical than us. They destroyed us on the glass and destroyed us in turnovers. So it was a good lesson for us."