DALLAS - It was the beautiful moment the Mavericks and their fans had waited for all offseason, but LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat refused to watch as Dallas raised its 2010-11 world championship banner high into the rafters.
After tipoff, though, the roles could not have been more reversed as Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks were forced to watch the Heat steamroll to a 105-94 victory in the highly anticipated Christmas Day season opener from American Airlines Center.
The respectable final score, which Dallas was only able to make considerably closer after Miami rested several starters late in the second half, was in no way indicative of how thoroughly the Heat outshined the Mavericks on their banner day.
"They were a better team today, that's pretty obvious. We got a lot of work to do," said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. "We're going to have to forge an identity with this team. It's a different team. That's work and it's going to take honesty and it's not going to be easy."
The Miami victory over Dallas may not have won them a title in their first rematch of last year's Finals, but it did send a message to the Mavericks and the rest of the league as to just how well built the Heat were for the journey this season.
"We weren't sharp in any category and you can't win a game like that," Nowitzki said. "They looked better than we did. They were more prepared."
James led the way with a commanding 37-point, 10-rebound performance while Wade chipped in with a strong 26 points of his own. They were the only two Miami players in double-digits.
Dallas, meanwhile, had four players exceed the double-digit plateau in the loss with Jason Terry getting 23 while Nowitzki had 21 and Shawn Marion and Delonte West had 12 and 10, respectively.
Dallas, which starts the year with a slew of new players, including Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and West, to name a few, knows that after a short two-game preseason, they're left with no choice but to find the right mix on the fly.
"We should have won, but we didn't execute," Carter said. "We got a lot of new guys here who are expected to do a lot, so we have to gel on the go more than anything and I think we're capable of it. The best is yet to come."
Carter may have only had five points, but he still fared better than Odom, who was ejected in the third quarter after his second technical foul. Odom finished with four points and four rebounds in his 13 brief minutes of action.
Odom conceded that the Mavericks were outplayed by a far superior Heat team.
"They hit a lot of tough shots today, but we didn't do a good job of getting back and rolling them out," Odom said. "You can't meet those guys at the rim. They're too athletic and they do a great job of driving to the basket and creating contact."
Dallas got off to a less than stellar start, trailing 9-3 halfway through the opening frame. Both teams committed plenty of turnovers early, but the difference was Miami made Dallas pay with theirs.
"They got off to a fast start and with the turnovers and their second opportunities we were already playing behind," said Mavericks guard Jason Kidd. "We have to speed things up."
New Maverick Odom got a rousing ovation from the NBA-best 400th consecutive sellout crowd at the AAC when he first came into the game with five and half minutes left in the first quarter.
He quickly showed the fans the type of energy he could bring to the team as he promptly hit a corner three to tie it up at 11-all.
The momentum would be short-lived as Miami muscled up and sprinted to a 13-0 run that gave them the 24-11 advantage.
Dallas finally stopped the bleeding and got back on the board with a pair of free throws that came when James fouled Nowitzki as he went for a layup.
Nowitzki continued to get fouled and add to the Mavericks point total with two more, gradually cutting Miami's lead to 24-15.
It would prove to be nothing more than a speed bump, though, as the Heat regained control, mounting a 17-point lead in just the first quarter.
"We got to get sharper defensively and we got to get the calls quicker," Nowitzki said. "We know we got a lot of work to do."
While Miami would find greater success with the three-pointer as the game went on, initially the Heat built up their lead by dominating the rebounding battle and getting most of their offensive output from points in the paint.
At one point early in the second quarter, the Heat had 18 rebounds to just seven for the Mavericks. By game's end, the disparity had grown to a difference of 20 as the Heat finished with 51 rebounds to Dallas' 31.
"They controlled the boards the whole night," Kidd said. "We have to look to everybody, team rebound, we all have to come back and help out."
When the Mavericks did try to gain ground from downtown, Miami was quick to negate Dallas' minor gains.
Mere seconds after Terry hit a three to get Dallas to within 10 midway through the second quarter, James Jones hit back-to-back threes of his own for 42-26 Miami lead.
Dallas' nightmare continued as James helped Miami bully its way to a commanding 26-point late second quarter lead, 53-27.
Miami dominated in transition, scoring 18 fast break points compared to just four for Dallas in the first half. As a whole, Miami shot 20 of 36 heading into the third quarter while Dallas was a dismal 7 of 28, resulting in a 62-41 halftime lead for the Heat.
After the half, Miami picked up right where it left off as they made the defending world champs look like anything but, streaking to a 16-2 run to open the third quarter for their largest lead of the day at 35 for the 78-43 score.
It was here that Carlisle took a timeout as it was the only way he could, if only momentarily, stop the Heat from bludgeoning his Mavericks.
Dallas was able to play catch-up against Miami's bench throughout much of the fourth quarter, but it wouldn't matter as the Heat still managed to win by double-digits even while cruising on autopilot.
"We made it tough for ourselves tonight," Carter said. "We showed some resistance at some point, but it was already too late."
While Kidd admits the banner raising was a beautiful moment for he, Nowitzki, Terry and others who had waited so long to earn their first title, there's still the challenge of a new season left to play.
As Dallas turns its attention to the incoming Denver Nuggets and the 7:30 p.m. tipoff Monday night, Kidd said he and the defending world champion Mavericks have to be ready to wear that banner-sized target on their backs all season.
"It was a great thing and we've been waiting a long time for that, [the banner raising], so I'm happy we could get that behind us and play basketball," Kidd said. "It's another season and now it's going to be just as hard, if not harder, because of that banner."
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