Bulls charge as Miami feel the heat

Reigning NBA champions the Miami Heat collected their 2005/06 championship rings in front of their home crowd at American Airlines Arena, before being thrashed 108-66 by the Chicago Bulls in the 06/07 season opener on Tuesday.

    Bulls guard Kirk Henrich (L) is fouled by Miami's Udonis Haslem

    In what was the worst season-opening loss by a defending champion, Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich scored 26 points, Chris Duhon netted 20 in 16 minutes and centre Ben Wallace pulled down 11 rebounds as the visitors embarrassed the Heat on their home court.


    "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.


    The pre-match ceremony, in which Heat players, coaches and executives received their rings from NBA Commissioner David Stern before a championship banner was raised to the rafters, lasted 25 minutes.


    With their heads possibly still in the clouds, the Heat then spent the first quarter playing catch-up as the Bulls raced out to a 22-16 lead with Miami committing seven turnovers and nine fouls - two each by superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade.


    "The defense was carrying us, defence kept us in the game," Bulls' key off-season signing Wallace told a courtside reporter.


    "A lot of emotion and energy is taken up in the ring ceremony and we wanted to come out and catch them off guard."


    Things only got worse for Miami in the second quarter as Chicago's defence stepped up to prematurely end the Heat's celebrations as the crowd's cheers turned to boos with the Bulls taking a 29-point halftime lead and charging to an easy win.


    "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," Riley added.


    Wade, last season's NBA Finals MVP, was the only player from the Heat to reach double figures as he scored 25 points, while O'Neal recorded seven points and five rebounds, hitting just 3 from 10 as he was marked out of the game by Wallace.


    Lakers beat Suns


    Lakers' Maurice Evans (C) goes
    up for a dunk against the Suns

    Meanwhile, in the other opening night game the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Phoenix Suns 114-106 at the Staples Center, Los Angeles with forward Lamar Odom the star of the show as gaurd Kobe Bryant sat out.


    Odom scored 34 points, pulled down 13 rebounds, had six assists and three steals for the night as the Lakers came back from being 15-points down at the end of the first quarter to pull off the win.


    19-year-old Lakers centre Andrew Bynum chipped in with 18 points, 9 rebounds and five assists to kick-start the Los Angeles revival.


    "We start off erratic," Odom said.


    "Andrew got us going and we all followed from there. Good offence led to good defence."


    Bryant, the leading scorer in the NBA last season, wasn't even suited up for Tuesday's opening match as he sat out with some soreness in his surgically repaired knee.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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