Heat raise banner, then drop guard

Heat center Shaquille O'Neal, left, goes up for a shot against Chicago Bulls center Ben Wallace during the first quarter.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
MIAMI - The Chicago Bulls left the court during Miami's championship-ring festivities, then returned to emphatically spoil what was left of the Heat's celebration.
Kirk Hinrich - who signed a five-year extension just hours before tip-off - scored 26 points, Chris Duhon added 20 and the Bulls delivered a huge stunner in beating the defending NBA champion Heat 108-66 in Tuesday night's season opener.
It was - by far - the worst loss in NBA history for a defending champion on opening night; the previous low was the Los Angeles Lakers' 132-117 defeat to Golden State on Oct. 29, 1982. The Lakers went on that season to win 58 games and return to the NBA finals under coach Pat Riley, the same man guiding the Heat these days.
Chicago seized command with a 37-14 second-quarter burst, a stretch where the Bulls connected on 79 percent of their shots - compared to 29 percent for the Heat, who simply never got rolling. The lead was 59-30 at halftime and just kept growing.
Dwyane Wade had 25 points before sitting out much of the fourth quarter for Miami, which didn't even have anyone else reach double figures. The Heat turned the ball over 23 times, leading to 32 Chicago points and were outrebounded 49-29.
Luol Deng had 12 points and Thabo Sefolosha - the league's first player from Switzerland - added 11 on 4-of-4 shooting for Chicago.
Antoine Walker had nine for Miami, while Shaquille O'Neal had seven points and five rebounds before sitting out the final 14:01.
The Heat donned the same red uniforms they wore June 20 in Dallas when they won the franchise's first title, and got their rings in an elaborate pregame ceremony capped by raising the commemorative banner to the rafters.
The championship feel was there. The championship play was not. "In some cases, the home team gets their rings and goes blub, blub, blub, blub because they're so pumped," said NBA commissioner David Stern, who handed out the jewelry to the Heat players, coaches and staff before the game. "I've been to a couple of those."
This was another one. On a night that should have been filled with highs, the result was a franchise low - as in the worst opening-night loss in Heat history. Miami had dropped three other openers by 20 points, most recently Nov. 5, 2003, against Orlando.
The teams last met in the first round of last season's playoffs, when the Bulls frustrated the Heat often before finally falling to the eventual champs in six games.
But the Bulls had their way with the Heat this time around.
Chicago spent the offseason keeping most of its core intact, plus added pieces like former Detroit center Ben Wallace - getting the marquee free agent to sign a four-year, $60 million deal. Meanwhile, Miami made little in the way of roster moves, electing to bring back virtually the entire title-winning roster.
Wade hit a 3-pointer with 4:12 left in the opening quarter to draw Miami within 17-13. But Chicago - fueled by Heat turnovers and foul trouble - went on a 17-6 run over the next 7 minutes, building a 15-point lead. And not coincidentally, the Bulls had 15 points off 11 Miami turnovers to that point.
It was 51-28 after Walker made a free throw with 1:42 left in the half, but Duhon hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Chicago a 29-point lead. Apparently undeterred, Bulls coach Scott Skiles picked up a technical foul for arguing a call with referee Bernie Fryer.
That was about the last thing Skiles had to be upset about. Miami never got closer than 22 in the third quarter, and the outcome was in no doubt from there.

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