Heat reserves like Norris Cole stepped up to help Miami start the season on the right foot.
By CHARLIE McCARTHYFS Florida
MIAMI -- Tuesday night for the
Miami Heat was all about spreading the wealth.
There was the bling passed out before Miami's season opener against the
Chicago Bulls, and then the seven double-figure scorers during the Heat's 107-95 victory.
A team with an identity that emanates from the Big Three needed major contributions from four reserves to secure the victory.
Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Chris Andersen especially stepped up during a second quarter in which Miami took control of the game by outscoring Chicago 37-18.
"That's our job as bench players, bring the spark," Cole said. "Every night it's going to be something different. It may not be points, it may just be activity. There are going to be plenty of nights where the Big Three is going to carry us heavily."
That wasn't the case in the opener, which followed pregame festivities that included the dishing out of championship rings and the raising of the 2013 NBA championship banner. Neither LeBron James (17 points) nor Chris Bosh (16 points) nor Dwyane Wade (13 points) took control like each is very capable of doing.
"We preach and practice not letting the ball stick, being unselfish," Wade said. "Tonight was a prime example of that. Obviously, it won't be like that all year."
The Heat followed the pregame ceremonies by looking sluggish as the Bulls built a 9-2 lead nearly four minutes into the game. It wasn't until Battier and Allen entered at the 3:52 mark and each hit a 3-pointer late in the first quarter that the champs seemed to get on course.
"There were a lot of emotions going on that first quarter, you have to get all that out," Cole said. "It's the first game. Then we had the championship banner -- there's a human effect there. The second quarter we settled in and went on from there."
Battier picked up where he left off four months ago, when he sank six 3-pointers in the title-clinching Game 7 win against San Antonio.
"Obviously, tonight was a really emotional night, we felt it," Battier said. "The first group, I thought, played hard and had good shots, it just wasn't working. So we said, 'Let's go in and change the tempo' -- the same thing we did countless times last year and got the crowd back in the game."
Saying it on the bench is one thing. Accomplishing it against perhaps the biggest Eastern Conference threat to Miami is another.
"The way the Bulls force you to play basketball, they're going to try and take every option away from you," Allen said. "They play the passing lanes. They put pressure on you up top.
"We have to move the ball. We're not going to score on the first option, not even the second. We found that third and fourth option a lot tonight and we found it early."
The subs benefited from that. Battier hit 5 of 6 -- including all four shots from behind the arc -- to finish with 14 points. Allen hit 3 of 6 from 3-point territory and scored 11. Cole was 5 of 7 for 11 points and had seven defensive rebounds. Andersen had six points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes, 33 seconds.
"The old men went in, me and Ray, and our mindset's the same -- let's create energy," Battier said. "And obviously Birdman and Norris, that's the young brigade, and they come in and bring energy as well.
"We just try to makes things happen. Try to make something positive happen and get the crowd into it."
They did more than that Tuesday night. They earned a ringing endorsement that Miami is more than the Big Three.