MIAMI -- They celebrated 2012-13 before the opening tip.
Then they made new memories.
Norris Cole crossing over Derrick Rose. Ray Allen with dual pumps fakes and then assisting on a Chris Bosh 3-pointer. Allen then following up with a 3-pointer of his own, from THAT corner. LeBron James feeding Chris Andersen for an alley-oop dunk. Shane Battier scoring off the dribble. A 31-5 surge.
And that was just the first half of the first game in what the Miami Heat hope is the beginning of the run to a third consecutive NBA championship.
Opening night couldn't have gone much better, save for a bit of a late letup, with the Heat closing with a 107-95 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, an opening night that resonated from the pregame pyrotechnics to the thrill-show theatrics that followed.
"You never know what to expect when you're trying to keep the main thing the main thing, and that's the game," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "But you can't deny the moment.
"It was great to actually get the win after that."
It appeared it was going to be a blowout, as the Heat pushed to a 25-point lead early in the fourth quarter before a late letdown. That forced Spoelstra to reinsert his starters, after the bench had boosted the Heat earlier.
A few timely shots later and it was decided.
"Guys hung in there," Spoelstra said.
The nine-man core that led the Heat to last season's championship all had their moments, as the 2013-14 newcomers watched how it's done.
"That was one of our more mature, team-oriented games," Spoelstra said. "It was more about a team attack, the ball would find the open player.
"I like the flow."
Udonis Haslem, an old-school starter if ever there was one, opening the scoring.
Battier loaded up with four 3-pointers on the way to 14 points, picking up where he left off in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
Chris Andersen had eight rebounds, consistently moving into open position for scores at the rim.
Allen had six assists at the intermission, closing with a Heat-career-high seven, as well as 11 points.
Mario Chalmers and Cole more than held their own against Rose, who finally returned from his devastating 2012 playoff injury. Chalmers' five steals in the first half were a Heat opening-night record.
Chalmers finished with 13 points and four assists, Cole with 11 points and seven rebounds. Rose closed with 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, four assists and five turnovers in 34 minutes.
"When we weren't throwing it to them, we were making the right plays," Spoelstra said, lamenting the Heat's 20 turnovers that led to 30 Bulls points.
On this night, the Big Three essentially were the supporting players.
James closed with 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Bosh added 16 points and five rebounds, making his final six shots.
And Dwyane Wade, working his way back from his postseason knee issues, struggled to 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
No matter, with the Heat's depth ultimately shredding what was supposed to be a bolstered Bulls bench.
No, this wasn't the best of the Big Three, but it didn't have to be, not with Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler dealing with early foul trouble, even with Carlos Boozer providing plenty of points and Joakim Noah plenty of rebounds for Chicago. Boozer closed with 31 points on 13-of-18 shooting, with Noah adding a game-high 11 rebounds but only two points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Eventually the games will mean more between these teams, by which time Rose will have regained his legs.
On this night, a 37-18 Heat second quarter essentially made everything else moot, save for that frantic, late Bulls rally, especially with the Bulls' reserves 1 of 14 in the first half.
Next comes the mundane, when the uniforms no longer have opening-night gold lettering and there are nights like Wednesday in Philadelphia against the trying-to-lose 76ers.
But the Heat did this one right, respected both the pregame ring ceremony, Commissioner David Stern's last before he retires, as well as what the Bulls could become this season with Rose back in their mix.
It was sluggish early, the Heat taking a 17-15 lead into the second period, following a 1-of-10 start from the field.
Eventually the 3-point shots began to drop, already easing the blow of the offseason loss of Mike Miller, and there were enough rebounds to offset Noah's inside presence.
For the Heat, newcomers were an afterthought Tuesday, with Greg Oden and Roger Mason Jr. inactive and Michael Beasley failing to see action.
With the victory, the Heat improved to 14-12 all-time in season openers. One of those openers was a 108-66 loss to the Bulls on Oct. 31, 2006, when the Heat received championship rings for the first title in franchise history. The Heat atoned last season when they beat the visiting Boston Celtics 120-107 in their 2012 opener, on the night they received their 2012 championship rings, and were just as methodical Tuesday.
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