The Chicago Bulls saw the stars aligning for the Miami Heat last summer, with the "Big Three" free agents uniting in south Florida on a quest for a championship.
Joakim Noah was not conceding anything. Nor was Derrick Rose.
Chicago swept Miami in the regular season, and if the Bulls keep this up, they will knock the Heat out of the play-offs, too.
Rose scored 28 points, Luol Deng contained LeBron James and the Bulls struck first in the Eastern Conference finals, pulling away to beat the Heat 103-82 in Game 1 on Sunday night.
"We felt like we could compete against anybody," Noah said. "This is just a really exciting situation right now. The position that we're in is unbelievable."
The Bulls finished the regular season with the league's best record and rekindled an attitude not seen in Chicago since the Michael Jordan era, when championships seemed an annual event.
James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were all courted by Chicago in the off-season, but they ended up in Miami. But the Bulls are quite happy with the way things have worked out. "We're not worried about all the off-season stuff," Rose said. "We're just trying to go out there and play hard, play with an edge, play with a lot of intensity."
They certainly did on Sunday, particularly during the second half. The Bulls went on a 10-0 run midway through the third quarter, then pulled away in the fourth.
As the final minutes ticked away, fans chanted "Over-rated!" and "Beat the Heat!"
Game 2 is tomorrow night in Chicago.
Rose settled down after committing three turnovers in the opening minutes and showed why he was named the league's MVP. He hit three 3-pointers and the Bulls converted 10 of 21 in all.
Deng had 21 points, four steals and seven rebounds, and simply put the clamps on James, restricting him to 15 points.
"Definitely to guard a guy like that the whole defence has to stay focused," Deng said. "There were times we switched and times we forced him into the double. Our bigs were great at forcing him into the front."
Carlos Boozer added 14 points and nine rebounds. Noah had 14 rebounds to help the Bulls win the battle of the boards 45-33, including 19 on the offensive end for 31 second-chance points.
"You play defence. You play defence hard and the shot goes up and they get an offensive rebound, kick it out for a three or get a lay-up or a dunk," James said.
"Those are demoralising for a defensive team. We've got to figure out a way to clean that up."
Bosh led Miami with 30 points and nine rebounds. Wade scored 18 points, but the Heat were overmatched down the stretch.
"Dwyane and LeBron are going to create a lot of attention," Bosh said. "This is a good defensive team ... They're going to make them distributors. We have to look at where we fell short as a team for Game 1 and come back with a better approach."
Chicago leads Miami 1-0
Tomorrow: at Chicago
Sunday: at Miami
May 24: at Miami
May 26: at Chicago-x
May 28: at Miami-x
May 30: at Chicago-x.