Like they say, preseason means nothing. Even a perfect one.
After going 8-0 in exhibition games, the Bulls reached South Beach on Tuesday and seemed in need of a second preseason.
Coach Tom Thibodeau doesn't like excuses, but the Bulls' regular starting five never played together in the preseason, Joakim Noah played just 19 minutes because of a groin strain and, as the world knows, Derrick Rose played his first real NBA game in 18 months.
Toss in some uncharacteristic foul trouble and the Bulls' rust was no match for Miami's gold. After collecting championship rings, the Heat rolled past the Bulls 107-95 in Tuesday night's season opener at American Airlines Arena.
"There were a lot of corrections that we have to make," Thibodeau told reporters after the game. "It always comes back to the same thing -- our defense and our rebounding. And if we could have taken better care of the ball early on, we would have been in position to win down the stretch."
There's no mystery to this result. It's pretty easy to identify when and why things went wrong for the Bulls.
Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng picked up 3 fouls each in the first half. And with both players on the bench, Miami ripped off a quick 17-0 run midway through the second quarter, building a 21-point lead.
Besides the return of Rose, one of the biggest reasons for optimism this season was finally having two wings who can both score and defend. That part was evident. Even though the Bulls spent much of the night trailing by 20 points, they outscored Miami by 10 while Butler was on the floor.
Deng picked up his third foul on a charge with 4.5 seconds left in the first quarter and skipped all of the second. He had a tough night overall, with 4 points, 5 rebounds and 2-of-8 shooting. Still, the Bulls were plus-6 when Deng played.
Rose had some nice moments, but the preseason schedule didn't prepare him for taking on Miami's double-teams. He finished with 12 points, 2 assists and 5 turnovers, while hitting 4 of 15 shots.
"If anything, I'm disappointed in the loss," Rose said. "My performance, I can easily change that by making shots and keep down the turnovers."
The star of the night for the Bulls was Carlos Boozer, who poured in 31 points. Butler finished with 20. Joakim Noah had 11 rebounds and 2 points in 20 minutes. It obviously will take him some time to get back up to speed.
Many of the issues in Miami can be blamed on rust and fouls, two factors that shouldn't last long. If there's reason to feel distressed, though, it was the play of the Bulls' bench.
While Butler and Deng sat on the bench in the second quarter, newcomer Mike Dunleavy and rookie Tony Snell missed all of their shots. Dunleavy rallied to play better in the second half, and the Bulls will need more of that.
Taj Gibson, brilliant in the preseason, had a quiet 10 points and 8 rebounds. Don't forget, last year's reserve squad took a few weeks to start playing well; Marco Belinelli looked like he needed a GPS to find the hoop but eventually came around to Thibodeau's system.
Miami stars LeBron James (17 points) and Dwyane Wade (13 points) didn't have huge nights and shot a combined 42 percent from the field. That might be a plug for the Bulls' defense, but at the same time the Heat's supporting cast had big nights.
Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Norris Cole combined to knock down 8 of 13 attempts from 3-point range, and Miami is nearly impossible to beat when that happens.