In the most highly anticipated season opener in NBA history (over 400 media credentials were distributed), the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics beat the Miami Heat 88-80. It was a playoff atmosphere in Boston for the match-up of Big 3’s past and present and the Celtics faithful watched the home team pick up right where they left off holding the much hyped Heat to nine first quarter points.
The Heat could not find the basket as the Celtics looked like a cohesive unit even integrating the newly acquired Shaquille O’Neal in the early going with two wide open dunks.
Coming into the game as “the other team” seemed to light a fire under the veterans from Beantown as Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen led an offense that opened up a 19-point lead on Miami in the second quarter en route to a 45-30 halftime edge.
Those who thought the game was over at this point may have been under a rock when LeBron James said he was “taking his talents to South Beach” this past summer. With Dwyane Wade (4-16 from the field, 13 points) struggling with his shot, still getting into game shape after missing the entire preseason, and Chris Bosh (8 points) being locked down by Kevin Garnett, King James stepped out of the phone booth in the third quarter.
James led the Heat back all by himself in the third quarter scoring 15 of his 31 points in the period, including scoring or assisting on 14 points in a row, to cut the lead to six points at 63-57.
Every time the Heat threatened the Celtics, mainly Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, hit a big shot to quell any notions of a Miami comeback. When James and Wade led a two-man attack in the 4th quarter to cut the lead to three at 83-80, a clutch three pointer by Ray Allen and two free throws by Paul Pierce set the final score.
The Heat looked like a team that just came together over the summer (James had 8 turnovers) as many of the shots and passes made by Miami were off. The good news is the NBA season is 82 games. No one expected the Heat to go 82-0. They have time to get the kinks out, but give Boston their props. They did not succumb to the hype and played like the defending Eastern Conference champs they are.
With the opener looking like an Eastern Conference Finals game, the 2010-2011 NBA season is off to a fantastic start.