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Bulls ruin the party for champions

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MIAMI, Florida -- Miami Heat opened the new season with a party but finished with a hangover as the Chicago Bulls thrashed the reigning NBA champions 108-66 in the league curtain-raiser.

A capacity crowd dressed in white at the American Airlines Arena cheered and celebrated as the Heat accepted their championship rings from commissioner David Stern.

They then watched the championship banner raised to the rafters in a theatrical pre-game ceremony.

The party, however, was short-lived and the cheers turned to boos as the Bulls raced to a 29-point halftime lead then coasted to an easy win.

The loss was the worst opening night defeat by a defending champion in NBA history.

"The defense was carrying us, defense kept us in the game," the Bulls' prize off-season signing Ben Wallace told a courtside reporter.

"A lot of emotion and energy is taken up in the ring ceremony and we wanted to come out and catch them off guard."

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, who just hours before the opening tip-off signed a five-year $47 million contract extension, celebrated with a 26-point performance while Chris Duhon hit for 20 points.

Wallace pulled down 11 rebounds while Argentine Andres Nocioni contributed nine points and 11 boards to the rout.

Dwyane Wade had 25 points for Miami but the NBA finals MVP was the only member of the Heat to hit double figures.

Shaquille O'Neal was a woeful 3-of-10 from the field and finished with just seven points and five rebounds.

"Welcome back to reality," Heat coach Pat Riley told reporters. "Obviously it was absolutely one-sided.

"There isn't really much to say .... there has been a gauge put on how much work we have to do."

In the night's other game, Kobe Bryant watched from the bench as the Lakers rallied to beat the Phoenix Suns 114-106.

Hinrich celebrated his five-year contract extension with a 26-point performance.

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