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Bosh takes over in Heat’s opening win

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MIAMI — LeBron James is gone and it’s pretty much an accepted reality that the Miami Heat won’t be as good without the player who led them to four straight NBA Finals.

But that doesn’t mean Miami has surrendered.

Wednesday night’s season-opening 107-95 win over the short-handed Washington Wizards at AmericanAirlines Arena showed how the Heat have adjusted.

Forward Chris Bosh, who retreated to the background during the LeBron Era, had game highs in points (26) and rebounds (15).

“He’s reinvented himself,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Bosh, who made 9 of 18 shots from the field in 39 minutes and added four assists. “He’s been developing new aspects of his game.

“For the last six minutes of the game, we ran our offense through (Bosh).”

Point guard Norris Cole, who spent the past three years as a backup to Mario Chalmers, made just his 13th career start and his first on opening night, scoring a career-high 23 points.

And rookie wing James Ennis, who scored eight points in 15 minutes off the bench, showed his elite athleticism with a soaring fourth-quarter dunk over Kris Humphries. Ennis soared so high that his knee hit Humphries in the chest.

“I was excited,” Ennis said. “I actually heard (the fans). It made me more amped. I’m here now. That made me feel it.”

Besides the new-look Bosh, the new starter in Cole and the high-flying Ennis, the Heat got what has become a typical performance from shooting guard Dwyane Wade.

He had 21 points despite suffering a calf injury and leaving the game with 2:49 left in the third quarter. Wade returned with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter and scored 12 points after coming back.

The Wizards were led by point guard John Wall (16 points, 11 assists), center Marcin Gortat (18 points) and forward Paul Pierce (17 points). In addition, Wizards forward Drew Gooden, making his first start in three years, had 18 points.

But Wizards coach Randy Wittman was extremely disappointed with his team’s defense.

“It had nothing to do with our offense,” he said. “We didn’t defend off the dribble all night long. We got beat off the dribble, and we didn’t have a presence at the rim or a willingness to step in and take a charge. I hate to see how many layups and scores right at the rim they got.”

Washington was without two starters — injured guard Bradley Beal and suspended forward Nene. Two reserves were also out — injured wing Martell Webster and suspended forward DeJuan Blair.

Humphries played despite a lacerated right hand and had four points.

Wittman said the missing players did not matter, but Gortat disagreed.

“It had a huge effect,” Gortat said. “We had two of our main guys from our starting lineup out (Beal, Nene), and the team looks weaker.”

This was a battle of Southeast Division rivals. The Heat are no longer even a clear favorite to win its division with upstarts such as the Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets considered on par with Miami, according to Vegas oddsmakers.

Early on Wednesday, Washington was looking good, taking a 28-22 lead after the first quarter. But the Heat battled back to take a 53-52 halftime advantage. Bosh had a huge second quarter with 16 points.

Miami led 72-70 after three quarters. Cole had 10 points in the quarter to lead the Heat, which will next play at the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

The Wizards continue their road trip at Orlando on Thursday and then play their home opener Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

NOTES: F Shawne Williams, a Heat newcomer, lost 30 pounds to get down to 235 in the offseason and became an opening-night starter when PF Josh McRoberts (toe) was injured. … The Heat has three rookies on its roster: first-round PG Shabazz Napier from UConn, undrafted free-agent SG Andre Dawkins from Duke and F James Ennis, a 2013 second-round pick who played in Australia last year. … Overall, the Heat have nine newcomers, including new starting SF Luol Deng. … The Wizards have the top-ranked backcourt in the Eastern Conference with PG John Wall and SG Bradley Beal, but the latter is out one month with a wrist injury. … Wizards F/G Martell Webster (back) is also injured. … F Rasual Butler, 35, secured the last spot on the Wizards’ roster and received a one-year, non-guaranteed contract. … Wizards Fs Nene and DeJuan Blair missed the game because of a suspension for leaving the bench during a near-fight against the Indiana Pacers in the teams’ exhibition finale. … Heat coach Erik Spoelstra opted not to use two reserve forwards who were less than 100 percent: Udonis Haslem (quadriceps injury) and Danny Granger (hamstring).

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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