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LeBron, Heat spoil Derrick Rose’s return in Bulls’ 107-95 loss

Updated: November 2, 2013 12:48AM



MIAMI – Rings on fingers was how the Miami Heat started off Tuesday night.

Boots to butts was how they finished it.

And when all the tough talk leading up to the season opener was over with, it was the Bulls realizing that the bar has been set by the back-to-back defending champions, and the long climb to try and close the gap has officially started.

Behind 17 points from four-time MVP LeBron James, Miami beat the Bulls 107-95 in front of a sellout crowd at the American Airlines Arena.

“Just disappointed with the loss, but it’s going to be a long journey,’’ Bulls center Joakim Noah said.

One that started with a reality check.

While the Heat players were collecting their championship rings in a pregame ceremony, the Bulls made the decision to stay tucked away in the visiting locker room. Unfortunately, hiding from the inevitable could only last so long.

And as for that highly anticipated return of Derrick Rose after the MVP point guard missed the last 18 months returning from surgery on his left anterior cruciate ligament? Well, it definitely wasn’t the preseason anymore.

Rose looked to be back to his old self in the seven exhibition games he played in, averaging 21.7 points per game.

In the first game that really mattered, however, Rose was more of an afterthought, shooting 4-for-15 from the field for 12 points to go along with five turnovers.

“I don’t think it was rust,’’ Rose said. “It was just me missing shots. I’ve had worse shooting nights than this. If anything, I’m going to have amnesia about it and we play in two days.

“It’s not the end of the world. This will be easily forgotten.’’

Maybe. But leading up to the opener against a Heat team that had eliminated them from the playoffs in two of the last three seasons, the Bulls sounded like a team ready to make a statement.

“Yeah, but we have a whole season to make a statement,’’ Rose said. “If it was just a one-game season that’s something we would be worried about. We know that we have a special team. It’s about us gelling and getting our chemistry.’’

Two components the Bulls (0-1) were definitely missing.

With both teams looking out of whack after the opening tip-off, it was Rose and the Bulls that seemed to get control first. Thanks to a quick four points from Rose and Carlos Boozer scoring eight of his game-high 31, the Bulls held the 15-10 lead.

Back-to-back three-pointers from Shane Battier and Ray Allen, as well as Luol Deng picking up his third foul of the game, quickly erased that lead and knocked the Bulls down to one knee.

A position they would never quite get up from.

The Heat went on a 17-0 run in the second quarter, before coach Tom Thibodeau called timeout and the bleeding was slowed with a Boozer lay-up. But by halftime it was a 54-33 Heat (1-0) lead.

The Bulls did put up a fight in the fourth, even cutting the lead to single digits, but the hole was too deep to dig out of.

“There are a lot of corrections we have to make,’’ Thibodeau said. “They’re obviously a very good team, the two-time defending champion. I thought they were very, very physical. We have to match that.’’

As for Rose, he feels it’s a matter of time before his game shows itself.

“I know I’m going to have a breakthrough game,’’ Rose said. “My job is to continue to work hard and I know it’s going to come to me.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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