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Fans might have a bit of déjà vu this upcoming spring since Tuesday night’s game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat seemed just like a playoff game. The weather was surprisingly warm, the T.D. Garden was packed, and two of what should be the Eastern Conference’s best teams met in quite possibly the most anticipated NBA Opener in the league’s history. Just a few months ago, the Celtics were uncertain of their future after just missing out on their eighteenth banner, and Tuesday they found themselves putting South Beach’s new Big Three: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in the early season loss column. The Celtics defeated the Heat in their season opener 88-80.
This was a game of ups and downs the whole way through for both Boston and Miami. There was a lot of sloppy play throughout the game, including missed shots, poor defense, lazy offense, etc. for both teams. It was the first game of season, so some rustiness was still shaking off everyone despite each team having played in the preseason. While Miami shot poorly in the first half, the Celtics were very strong defensively too in holding the Heat to just a measly 30 points.
The second half seemed to be a completely different game. It looked like the Celtics were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers of the past few seasons during the third and fourth quarters. After a very off night from Wade, LeBron James took things into his own hand starting in the third quarter. James erupted for 15 points in the third quarter and even brought Miami within three points of Boston with a little over a minute left in the game after the Celtics had lead by as much as 19 points earlier on. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce sealed the deal with a three pointer and a couple of free throws, respectively, to finish off the game.
Paul Pierce lead the charge for the Celtics by scoring 19 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, and dishing out 3 assists. Pierce hit several clutch shots towards the end of the game after leaving during the third quarter with back spasms caused by a “defensive blocking foul” he committed against LeBron James (which upon replay, was clearly a charge by King James). Ray Allen also had a good night scoring 20 points and finding his three point shot that he lost in the last few games of NBA Finals last season.
Pierce and Allen were not the only Celtics players with good games. Rajon Rondo was able to rack up a whopping 17 assists, just one shy of his own personal regular season record. Shaquille O’Neal, who got the nod to start, was also impressive in his debut for Boston, scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds in just 18 minutes of playing time. Kevin Garnett also notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds even after a slow start to the game offensively in the first half.
Off the bench, Glen Davis was the star with 13 points and 5 rebounds after coming in first for the 38-year-old O’Neal. Marquis Daniels, who is expected to have a better second season with the Celtics, flashed his ability to cut to the basket and score with his eight points. Look for a more productive Daniels this season without Tony Allen and Michael Finley eating his minutes again. It was the first of what should be many great nights for what is possibly the deepest bench in the NBA.
On the other side of the court it was the LeBron James show, once again making it seem like this was the former Cleveland Cavaliers of now South Beach, Miami. James had 31 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocked shots (one should have been called as goal tending), and a steal. It was all about James and that talent that he was more than happy to bring to Miami this off season. His other South Beach Big Three teammates did not have nearly as good a game.
Wade, who clearly showed he is still adjusting to this new Miami Heat team and who is still ailing from a hamstring injury he suffered in the preseason, looked lost. He couldn’t get anything to fall until very late in the game. He was only 4-16 in his field goal attempts and finished the night with just 13 points. Chris Bosh also had a rough night with only eight points on 3-11 shooting, but he did manage to grab eight rebounds. Bosh will most likely be more of a support role for James and Wade and will not necessarily be counted on to rack up the baskets like he did in Toronto.
The Celtics were successful in out rebounding Miami 42-39, which has to make them happy. They spent the summer getting bigger players to cure the rebounding woes that possibly cost them a championship last year. However, the Celtics turned the ball over far too much with 18 total turnovers that included several 24-second shot clock violations. Hopefully this is just a matter of it being the first game of the season and the team not yet up to its mid season form.
Overall, it was a successful night for Boston and as the saying goes, a win is a win regardless how you get it. There is still work to be done obviously, but clearly the Celtics were the team who knew how to play with each other while the Heat were still trying to figure out their own system.
Next up for the Celtics, they will take a look a what the Cleveland Cavaliers have been up to now without LeBron James Wednesday night in Cleveland.