Heat Open Title Defense With 108-66 Loss

Wednesday, November 1st 2006, 6:23 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ They got their championship rings, saw the postseason highlights played on giant video screens and watched a new banner swing from the arena's rafters. Everything was perfect for the Miami Heat. And then the game began.

Kirk Hinrich scored 26 points, Chris Duhon added 20 and the Chicago Bulls emphatically spoiled Miami's celebratory mood, beating the defending NBA champion Heat 108-66 in Tuesday night's season opener.

``Welcome back to reality,'' Heat coach Pat Riley said. ``Obviously it was absolutely one-sided. There isn't really much to say, other than we do know and there has been a gauge put on how much work we have to do.''

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 Riley.

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.

``I'd be saying the same thing if we got beat. I'd say it's one game,'' Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. ``We have all the respect in the world for them and they have something that we eventually want to get. This one game is not indicative, I don't think, in any way of what kind of season they are going to have.''

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.

``I don't know how much getting the rings had to do with it,'' said Hinrich, who signed a five-year extension hours before tipoff. ``That probably had something to do with it. But we're excited. It's a good start.''

Luol Deng had 12 points and Thabo Sefolosha _ the league's first player from Switzerland _ added 11 on 4-of-4 shooting for Chicago.

It wasn't the worst all-time loss for a reigning champion, but it sure came close: Orlando beat Chicago 115-68 on April 2, 1999, and that 47-point margin is the biggest defeat for a reigning titleholder, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

``We'll be all right,'' said Heat center Shaquille O'Neal, who had only seven points and five rebounds. ``Long season.''

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.''

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.

The Bulls had their way with the Heat this time around.

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, 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.

``Obviously, this is a total embarrassment,'' Heat center Alonzo Mourning said. ``We're better than what we showed out there tonight. I know things will get better before they get worse. Just kind of unfortunate, in our home opener, that we came out with this kind of showing.''