After months of labour and legal disputes, the 2011-12 season finally began and Miami laid down a marker of its championship credentials.
LeBron James had 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in a game that was hardly ever as close as the final score might suggest.
The newly minted champs were down by 15 after one quarter, 21 at halftime, and 35 a few minutes into the second half. Miami scored at least 30 points in each of the first three quarters.
Dwyane Wade had 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Heat cemented their status as the preseason favourite to win it all.
Jason Terry led Dallas with 23 points.
BULLS 88, LAKERS 87
In Los Angeles, Derrick Rose scored 22 points and hit the go-ahead jump shot with 4.8 seconds to play as the Bulls rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final four minutes to edge Los Angeles.
Luol Deng scored 21 points and blocked Kobe Bryant's short shot right before the buzzer as the Bulls hung on for a thrilling finish to both clubs' first-ever Christmas meeting.
Bryant scored 28 points and committed eight turnovers while playing with a torn wrist ligament for the Lakers, who nearly shook off their tumultuous preseason for a surprising win. Instead, Los Angeles was outscored 17-5 in the final 3:36.
KNICKS 106, CELTICS 104
In New York, Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points, including a pair of free throws with the game tied and 16 seconds left, to lift New York to a seesawing victory over Boston.
Amare Stoudemire added 21 points for the Knicks, who led by 17 in the first half, trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter, then pulled out a thrilling Christmas victory.
Rajon Rondo had 31 points and 13 assists, nearly leading the Celtics back without an injured Paul Pierce. But Kevin Garnett missed a jumper just before the buzzer.
THUNDER 97, MAGIC 89
In Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant scored 30 points to help Oklahoma City win its season opener with a victory over Orlando.
Durant led the league in scoring the past two seasons, including averaging 27.7 last season. On Sunday, he was 11-of-19 from the field and added five rebounds and six assists.
James Harden added 19 points and the Thunder held Orlando star Dwight Howard to just 11 points.
The Thunder, who lost to Dallas last year in the Western Conference finals, are expected to again be title contenders this season.
Ryan Anderson scored 25 points for the Magic.