Tonight marked the beginning of the highly anticipated 2013-14 NBA season. The slated prime time match up between the Miami Heat & Chicago Bulls served as a reminder to NBA fans everywhere that the Heat are still very...very...good. So good that Miami won this game convincingly 107-95 despite their two super star wing players LeBron James (17 pts, 6 rebs, 8 ast), and Dwyane Wade (13 pts, 3 ast, 4 rebs) struggling (by their standards) on offense. It would be the impact of depth as we saw big time production from the third big three member Chris Bosh (16 pts, 5 rebs, 3 blks), Norris Cole (11 pts), Ray Allen (11 pts), Mario Chalmers, (13 pts) and Shane Battier (14 pts). Chris Andersen's contribution on defense, and rebounding was key as well.
The Heat would finish the night with 7 players having scored over 10 points as the 3-ball was flowing, and the balance in scoring was key in their victory. However what proved to be most impressive was the team defense Miami inflicted upon the Chicago Bulls. Bulls big man Carlos Boozer (31 pts, 7 rebs) had an impressive game but head coach Erik Spoelstra would live with that as his gameplan was simple... the mission: Shut down Derrick Rose.
Rose's return following his long absence due to his ACL tear in 2011-12 was spoiled by the 2-Time defending champs who enjoyed a ring ceremony before the game to get things started. The defense keyed in on D.Rose, as he would finish the night with:12 pts, 4 ast, & 5 turnovers.
Here are the 5 takeaways from tonights Heat vs Bulls match up:
-Offensive Depth: Tonight wasn't "Video Game James" night, nor would it be a vintage Flash show offensively. Miami's two biggest stars struggled by their own standards tonight, and it would be the play of their teammates that elevated this team to victory. 7 players were in double figures for the Heat tonight, and all over 10 points. The 3-point shot was falling as they hit 55% (11-20) of their attempts (Ray Allen hit 3, Shane Battier hit 4). If this level of play from the role players continues it will be close to impossible in trying to defeat this team when they are on.
-Lockdown D: Though the Heat showed big time balance in their scoring as a team, it was the collective defensive effort that was the most impressive. Miami played their cards right dealing with Carlos Boozer's big night, but shutting down Derrick Rose in the process. They knew the only way for the Bulls to beat them would be through Rose, and head coach Erik Spoelstra did a great job of applying his defensive game plan. Miami continues to be one of the more stifling defensive teams in the NBA, and it only helps their cause from here on.
-D.Rose Needs Help in the Backcourt: It was already apparent, but it's an even more glaring issue now that the Bulls need to bring in a two guard that can take the pressure off of Rose offensively. When the assignment of Miami's defense is to shut down one man, it is usually taken care of. Right on cure it was tonight, and without Derrick Rose being the MVP caliber player we know him to be there is no way his Bulls could have won this game. It should be interesting to see what Chicago does when the trade deadline approaches, and if they make a move to help out their young super star.
-Game of Runs: The Heat put together some big time runs througout this game that assured the cushion going towards the finish. Trailing 9-2 very early in this game they would go on to outscore the Bulls 52-24 for the remainder of the first half (and dominate throughout). The game did draw closer towards the end, but the result was never really in question. If the Heat can consistently go on runs in games it will take a monster effort from the opposition to beat them. And with Miami's defense looking primed to be even better than years past that may prove to be the toughest assignment for any NBA team this season.
-Fair Warning to the East: Tonight was more than just the first win of the season for the Miami Heat. It was a statement game, as they reminded people just how great they really are. The talks before the game were how primed the Bulls, and few other Eastern Conference teams (Pacers, Brooklyn, New York) are to finally de-thrown LeBron James, and the Miami Heat. This win shows it'll take more than one man's return to knock them off, and with the rest of the Eastern Conference on notice it should make for a very entertaining season.