The magic is in the work.
That’s a phrase that Tom Thibodeau favors. And as the Bulls embarked on their 48th season in franchise history Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena, they received a sobering lesson of its veracity.
The Heat’s 107-95 dissection of the Bulls on Miami’s championship ring and banner raising ceremony night reminded all that magic doesn’t exist merely in Derrick Rose playing his first regular-season game in 18 months. Or in talk from several players, including Rose, that this Bulls squad represents their best championship chance.
Or even in the Bulls finally debuting their regular lineup of Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah after Noah overcame his nagging groin injury.
Work remains. In fact, following a shockingly dysfunctional performance at both ends, the gap between the two-time defending champion Heat and the Bulls — at least for one night — seemed as extended as Rose’s absence from regular-season play.
Facing consistent trapping, Rose finished with 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting with five turnovers in 34 minutes. He attempted just four free throws and missed 6-of-7 3-pointers, in sharp contrast to his preseason performance.
Rose got stripped cleanly from behind by Mario Chalmers on the game’s first possession, leading to a Udonis Haslem dunk. That foreshadowed the widespread offensive struggles to come.
The Bulls endured two scoreless stretches in the first half totaling 10 minutes, 16 seconds, including one that produced a 17-0 Heat run. Rose sat on the bench for the first, which lasted 5:52, revealing the Bulls’ lack of a secondary shot creator.
Mike Dunleavy missed all five first-half shots and surprisingly got replaced by rookie Tony Snell before awakening with 10 second-half points. Also in the second half, Noah missed a dunk. Then he missed another.
The Bulls shot 42.2 percent with 18 turnovers. Only Boozer and Butler played immune to it all. Boozer scored a team-high 31 points, while Butler contributed 20.
Foul trouble didn’t help. Deng drew his third on a charge with 4.5 seconds left in the first quarter. Surely, Thibodeau, who leans on Deng as his glue guy, convulsed as Deng had to sit the entire second quarter.
Early in the second, Butler followed suit with his third foul at the 9:39 mark. Deng then followed with his fourth on another charge just 4:39 into the second half.
Defensive breakdowns allowed the Heat to knock down 11 of 20 3-pointers, shoot 51.4 percent overall and enjoy a 42-26 edge in bench scoring.