Bulls Cruise Past Defending Champs in Season Opener
Posted Nov 1 2006 12:41AM
MIAMI, Oct. 31 (Ticker) -- Minutes after the Miami Heat received their championship rings, Kirk Hinrich and the Chicago Bulls reminded them that their new hardware was for last season's efforts.
Hinrich scored 15 of his 26 points in an overwhelming first half as the Bulls trumped the Heat, 108-66, in the opening game of the 2006-07 NBA season.
"We have a lot of guys that can create, catch and shoot, and also draw and kick. That will definitely be useful for us this year," Hinrich said. "When we can run the court and keep them in a low-percentage situation like they were in, it feeds into our style and we really played off of that."
"Everything was clicking but it's just one game. We created plays and that's what good teams do," Wallace said. "We were very solid defensively, and when you get a team in a big hole like that it plays into your hands."
It was the worst season-opening loss by a defending champion, surpassing the 132-117 setback suffered by the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State in 1982.
"It was absolutely one-sided," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "Just a very embarrassing loss. They've got a lot to prove. They're hungry and they're very talented and they're very committed."
Bounced out of the first round of the playoffs by the Heat last spring, Chicago spent the offseason adding Wallace -- a four-time Defensive Player of the Year -- and athletic rookies Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha to a young, energetic roster.
Meanwhile, Miami made very few changes since their stirring comeback from an 0-2 deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. Their veteran group looked sluggish against the Bulls, who used all 12 players in the decisive first half.
"Yes, it is embarrassing. It happens. It's just one of those nights," Heat star center Shaquille O'Neal said. "They actually did everything well. They played loose, we just didn't match their energy.
"We know we have a lot of work to do. We know that we're not at a championship level yet, but we will be."
The ceremony in which Heat players, coaches and executives received their rings from Commissioner David Stern before a championship banner was hoisted to the rafters of AmericanAirlines Arena lasted 25 minutes.
After getting their rings, Miami spent the first quarter running around in circles. They committed nine fouls -- two each by superstars O'Neal and Dwyane Wade -- and seven turnovers, digging a 22-16 hole.
It got worse in the second period, when the Bulls turned up their interior defense and started making shots. Consecutive dunks by Thomas and Luol Deng capped a 12-2 spurt that made it 38-21 with 7:39 left.
"We had guys making big plays and being aggressive," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We spread the ball around. Guys did a nice job of finding each other."
The Heat seemed a step slow the entire half. Hinrich had a driving three-point play and made a beautiful tip pass to Gordon for a fast-break layup and a 47-25 bulge. Duhon drained consecutive 3-pointers for a 57-28 advantage in the final minute.
"They haven't changed a lot. They're not going to reinvent the wheel coming off a successful season," Riley said. "They're a very energetic team and we have to find a way (to deal with that)."
In the first half, Miami had 10 baskets and 13 turnovers. Meanwhile, Chicago shot 51 percent (20-of-39) from the field and held a 26-15 rebounding advantage
The Heat got no closer than 22 points in the second half.
Duhon made 7-of-8 shots, including all three of his 3-pointers. Deng scored 12 points, Sefolosha added 11 without missing a shot and Wallace and Andres Nocioni grabbed 11 rebounds apiece for Chicago.
"We got beat by 42 points. There's no excuse for that. I can't give you guys an excuse because there is none," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. "I feel like they carried a chip on their shoulder for what happened to them last season (against us). They came out here and tried to prove a point."
Wade scored 25 points, but was the only player in double figures for Miami, which was beaten on the boards, 49-29. O'Neal scored seven points on 3-of-10 shooting as he was defended well by Wallace.
"Whether or not this is an eye-opener, I'm sure it is," Riley said. "We'll see how the players deal with it."