Rings over Rose: Heat raise their title banner, then hold off Bulls 107-95 in opener
MIAMI – 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 season-opener for both teams.
"You never know what to expect when you're trying to keep the main thing the main thing, and that's the game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "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 and how harrowing that was last season. So it was great to actually get the win after that 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 in a pregame ceremony. 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 3 — 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.
"I think we had a lot to do with it," Allen said.
Said Rose: "If anything, I'm disappointed in the loss. My performance, I can easily change that by making shots and keep down the turnovers."
By halftime, Miami was rolling, up 54-33 — putting the game on pace for a 108-66 final, which would have exactly 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.
A layup by Butler with 5:34 left got the Bulls within 15, and after he missed the ensuing free throw, the rebound made its way to Kirk Hinrich — who made a 3-pointer that cut Miami's lead to 91-79.
Hinrich fouled out on the ensuing Miami possession. Wade scored seconds later, the Heat followed that with a stop, and James simply overpowered Luol Deng in the post on the next trip to restore the 16-point lead.
But again, the Bulls weren't done, cutting the lead to 95-87 on a drive by Boozer with 2:47 left. They would get no closer, and James raved about Miami's balance.
"It's a team game," James said. "That's what this team is put together for."
Rose's start was promising early, with two drives for impressive scores. The Bulls led 15-10 when Rose checked out for the first time with 3:36 left in the opening quarter.
When he returned, the lead was gone for good. The Heat outscored the Bulls 13-3 in Rose's first stint on the bench, turning a five-point lead into a five-point deficit, and by then the Heat were off and running.
Over a 4-minute stretch of the second quarter, everything changed.
Rose's surgically repaired knee might be fine, but in the basketball vernacular, Cole broke the ankles of the 2011 NBA MVP — starting a run that turned what was a tight game into a romp. Cole faked out Rose on the dribble, causing the Bulls' star to tumble over, and the Heat reserve connected on an 18-foot jumper that sent the Miami bench leaping from its seats.
"There was a lot of emotions going on," Cole said.
That began the 17-0 run. The Bulls missed nine straight shots, Rose getting blocked by Bosh on one, and the Heat went to work. Miami shot 7 for 10 during the burst, which was capped by a driving layup by James with 4:23 left, and suddenly the Heat led 41-20.
It was a runaway, and became a grind-it-out win.
NOTES: Going back to last season's Eastern Conference semifinals, Miami has won five straight games over the Bulls. ... James is 31 points shy of 25,000 for his career, if including regular-season and playoff games. He would be the 28th player in NBA history to reach that milestone.