8:00 PM ET, October 29, 2013
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
The visiting Bulls get an early crack at the two-time reigning NBA champion Heat when they open the season Tuesday night.
Following a lavish celebration of the team's second straight league title and third in eight seasons, Miami expects to be all business going forward.
"After we get our rings, that's last year," said Heat superstar LeBron James, who averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists en route to his fourth MVP award.
"We did some special things last year and this is an opportunity for us to look back at it one more time, but I definitely won't lose sight of what's in front of me."
The Heat are trying to join the Boston Celtics of 1957-66 and 1984-87, and Los Angeles Lakers of 1982-85, as the only teams to make at least four consecutive trips to the league championship series. With James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen again leading the way, and Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley headlining a solid supporting cast, the Heat are poised to accomplish that feat while trying to become the first team since the Lakers of 2000-02 to win three straight NBA titles.
"It would mean everything, man," James said. "First of all, it means that I'm doing my part and I'm helping our team get better. It would mean everything to our team. That's what we're here for. We work our tails off every day. If it can pay off with another Finals appearance, we'd represent the Eastern Conference the best way we can."
Miami needed seven games to beat Indiana in the East finals and San Antonio in the title series in 2012-13, but those playoffs capped a remarkable season in which the Heat went 66-16, won 27 in a row and took 27 of the final 29 regular-season contests against conference opponents.
"When you put this kind of talent together, there's always people on the outside trying to figure out ways why it shouldn't work," said Wade, who averaged 21.2 points while shooting a career-high 52.1 percent during his 10th season with Miami. "When you're on the inside and can put it together and show them that it can work, it's a great feeling.
"For us to be able to go to the Finals three straight times and hopefully go again, what more can you ask for?
Ending that dominance would again appear to be a tall order for any conference foe, but Chicago believes it's up for the challenge.
As Rose remained sidelined the entire season with a knee injury suffered in April 2012, the Bulls went 45-37 in 2012-13 and posted a first-round victory over Brooklyn in seven games. Chicago won 93-86 at Miami in Game 1 of the next round, but scored 82.0 points and allowed 100.3 per contest in dropping four straight.
The memory of another failed postseason series against the Heat could certainly provide motivation, and the return of Rose has Chicago believing it can dethrone Miami.
"Our No. 1 goal is winning the title," said Rose, the 2011 MVP who has averaged 21.0 points and 6.8 assists in four NBA seasons. "We're not worried about anything else. We're not worried about what people say about us or what's going on on the outside. We're just worried about the Bulls and how good we get every day."
Rose averaged 20.7 points while the Bulls went 8-0 during the preseason. Though it's hard to put much stock in such achievement, Chicago looks at that performance as something to build upon.
"If anything, we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, which was to go out there and try to win every game," Rose told the Bulls' official website. "We know we have important games coming up. We're just trying to get prepared for that."
Rose has averaged 20.2 points despite shooting 37.1 percent, including 19.6 from 3-point range, in 17 regular-season and playoff games against Miami. However, he's played in one of the last 12 meetings between the teams.
Chicago split the four-game regular-season series with the Heat in 2012-13.
The Bulls ranked 29th with 93.2 points per game last season -- 3.1 fewer than in 2011-12 with Rose. However, since the start of the 2009-10 season, Chicago is yielding a league-low 93.1 points a contest.
Chicago's Joakim Noah made his first All-Star game while setting career highs with averages of 11.9 points and 11.1 rebounds last season. He could miss the opener due to a groin injury.
The Bulls are hoping for continued development from third-year shooting guard Jimmy Butler, who gave the Heat trouble in last season's playoff series by averaging 15.6 points. Butler became a starter in March and scored 14.5 per game, and he's expected to be in the starting lineup Tuesday.
Last 5 Games
Team Stat Leaders
Derrick Rose said on Tuesday that his basketball IQ has gotten higher. If that's the case, it should reflect in his assist/turnover ratio, which hasn't been great compared to other point guards.[+]
Derrick Rose Ast/TO ratio - Career
D-Rose played his usual minutes in Tuesday's opener, but was not quite himself from the field and was less efficient with the basketball...[+]
There's something about Miami that causes Derrick Rose to struggle. He has 17 career games shooting worse than 27 percent from the floor, and 4 of those have now come against the Heat, twice as many as any other opponent. He has 2 games shooting under 27 percent against another Florida team, Orlando, and hasn't done it more than once against anyone else.[+]
Games With Field Goal Pct Under 27% - Derrick Rose by Opponent
* Heat went 6-of-8 from corner 3s Tuesday, their most makes in the Big-3 era (2010-11) against the Bulls. Last season they led the NBA in corner 3s made and attempted, and were 4th in field-goal percentage on such shots (309-719, 43%).
All 6 of the corner 3s came off of assists and overall the Heat assisted on 70% of their field goals Tuesday, their highest regular season assist percentage against the Bulls in the Big-3 era.
Since Tom Thibodeau took over the Bulls in the 2010-11 season, they have allowed the fewest makes and attempts on corner 3s in the NBA. Only the Celtics, the team he was an assistant coach on before heading to Chicago, allowed a lower FG pct on such shots.
* Derrick Rose was 4-of-15 (26.7%) from the floor Tuesday and over half of Rose's field goal attempts came on drives to the basket. The Heat held him to 3-of-8 on those shots and forced him into 3 turnovers.[+]
While Rose is averaging nearly 23 points per game against the Heat in the last 3 seasons, he's only shot 36% and has turned the ball over 3.5 times per game. That is his worst shooting percentage against an opponent over the last 3 seasons (min 5 games).
Derrick Rose vs Heat, Since Start of 2010-11 Season
The numbers show that the Heat's role players should be the ones credited with the win over the Bulls -- not the "Big 3." LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were outscored by four points in 25 minutes on the court together. But when at least one of them was on the bench, the Heat outscored the Bulls by 16.[+]
Heat by 3-man Lineup Combinations vs Bulls
FROM ELIAS: The Heat are the 2nd team in NBA history to win 38 games in a 40-game stretch (across seasons). The other was the 2006-07 Mavericks, who also won 38 of 40.
ESPN Stats & Information