Great expectations were only fueled Christmas Day when a studded Miami team redeemed itself a bit by running reigning NBA champion Dallas off its own home floor.
Now the Heat return to South Beach to open up the home portion of their schedule by hosting another heavyweight, the Boston Celtics.
The celebration didn't last long on Sunday. The Mavericks unfurled their 2010-11 championship banner in a pregame ceremony and were then utterly dismantled, 105-94, by a motivated Miami club.
For the Heat, the whooping was a measure of revenge after June's six-game NBA Finals defeat at the hands of the Mavs. LeBron James, largely maligned for his underwhelming Finals performance, dominated on Sunday, pouring in a Miami opening-day record 37 points and going 15-of-19 from the foul line. Dwyane Wade added 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists, as the Heat led by as many as 35.
"I'm encouraged," Wade said. "It's different from last year and we're little more together and more comfortable. This is step one and we did a good job today."
Just six months removed from their first-ever NBA title, the Mavericks appeared to be suffering from a hangover of sorts. The abbreviated two-game preseason -- a product of the league's lengthy lockout -- also appeared to diminish a Dallas team which underwent a noticeable offseason overhaul.
The Heat, meanwhile, did little offseason tweaking, returning with their core of James, Wade and Chris Bosh intact. Their main offseason acquisition was that of heady vet Shane Battier. The result was a cohesive and focused team.
The Celtics, meanwhile, also opened up their campaign on Christmas Day in New York, losing a heartbreaker to the Knicks, 106-104.
The Knicks blew an early 17-point lead and trailed 87-79 entering the fourth. But Carmelo Anthony scored his team's first seven points of the quarter, and hit a game-tying trey with three minutes remaining, triggering a back-and- forth finish.
Key offseason acquisition Tyson Chandler had seven points and six blocks for New York, which halted an eight-game slide against the Celtics, including a four-game sweep in the opening round of last year's playoffs.
The Celtics, without Paul Pierce, were carried by Rajon Rondo's 31 points and 13 assists. Brandon Bass, acquired from the Magic during the offseason, added 20 points and 11 boards. Ray Allen also scored 20 and Kevin Garnett chipped in 15.
"It was a classic Knicks-Celtics game," Garnett said. "We fought for 48 minutes, but came up short."
Pierce, listed as doubtful for tonight with a bone bruise in his heel, left the four-time defending Atlantic Division champs thin at the small forward spot. They were also without Jeff Green, who is set to miss the entire season due to an aortic aneurysm.
Rondo did his best to compensate. He went 11-of-19 from the field and consistently penetrated the Knicks' sometimes porous defense.
The Heat snapped a eight-game skid to Boston with a 100-77 rout in Miami back in April. Overall, the C's have taken 14 of 16 over the Heat.