Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose (1) goes up between Miami Heat's Chris Bosh (1) and Mario Chalmers during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
MIAMI — Rings on fingers was how the back-to-back NBA cham-
pion Miami Heat started off opening night Tuesday. Sneakers to butts was how they finished it.
The Bulls talked tough in the days leading up to the season opener. But when the game was over, they realized how high the championship bar is set and the long climb they have to close the gap.
Four-time most valuable player LeBron James led seven players in double figures with 17 points to power the Heat past the Bulls
107-95 in front of a sellout crowd at American Airlines Arena.
‘‘Just disappointed with the loss, but it’s going to be a long journey,’’ center Joakim Noah said.
While the Heat collected its championship rings in a pregame ceremony, the Bulls decided to stay tucked away in the visitors’ locker room. Unfortunately, hiding from the inevitable only could last so long.
As for the highly anticipated
return of Derrick Rose, who missed all of last season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn ante-
rior cruciate ligament in his left knee, let’s just say it 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. But in the first game that
really mattered, Rose was more of an afterthought, scoring 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting and committing 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 game, 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 jelling and getting our chemistry.’’
Both teams looked out of whack after the opening tip, but the Bulls seemed to get control first. Thanks to eight points from Carlos Boozer — who led all scorers with 31 points — and four from Rose, the Bulls opened a 15-10 lead.
But back-to-back three-pointers by Shane Battier and Ray Allen, as well as Luol Deng picking up his third foul, quickly erased that lead and knocked the Bulls to one knee.
The Heat then went on a 17-0 run in the second quarter before coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout to stem the bleeding. By halftime, the Heat led 54-33.
The Bulls showed some fight in the fourth quarter and cut their deficit to single digits, but the hole was too deep for them 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.’’
Meanwhile, Rose said it was only a matter of time before his game shows itself.
‘‘I know I’m going to have a breakthrough game,’’ he said. ‘‘My job is to continue to work hard, and I know it’s going to come to me.’’