The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will renew their Eastern Conference rivalry Tuesday night, but the 2012 version will look distinctly different from other editions. Both teams have added key pieces that will change the complexion of the series.
It's technically only one game of 82, but it feels a whole lot more important. Early-season momentum is on the line, and both teams will be looking for a statement win. There's also a good chance we see these two teams battling it out in the summer.
The Heat are the heavy favorite to repeat as champions this season. The Celtics are considered as one of the few teams that have the firepower to stop them.
These two teams went a hard seven games in June and were pretty evenly matched. However, both teams went out and brought in new players this season.
Here are the biggest additions that should impact the game Tuesday night.
Ray Allen, Miami Heat
It's just odd to even see Allen in a Heat jersey. The thought of him playing his first game with the Heat against the Celtics is just mind-boggling.
Allen will have a huge impact on this game. He knows head coach Doc Rivers' game plan and strategies extremely well and should be able to utilize that insight to help his new team.
Allen is basically coming in to take over the role of three-point sniper. With LeBron James penetrating opposing defenses, Allen will get tons of wide-open looks from the outside. Considering this is the roster that made Shane Battier look like a long-range assassin, that's a scary thought.
Courtney Lee, Boston Celtics
When Allen decided to leave Boston, the Celtics wasted no time in finding his replacement.
Courtney Lee is by no means a superstar, but he is much younger than Allen (27 to 37) and could develop into a solid starter for the Celtics.
In the season opener, it'll be important that he settles into his role with the Celtics on offense. He doesn't quite have the same skill set as Allen, but he can knock down the three when he has to. If they can get quality shooting from him, he'll give the Celtics a good chance against the Heat.
It'll be important for Lee to play good defense as well; it's likely he'll spend at least some time guarding Dwyane Wade. Between Rajon Rondo and Lee, the Celtics should have the athleticism to slow Wade and put the load squarely on LeBron James' shoulders.
Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics
The Celtics went big with their two first-round draft picks in the 2012 NBA draft. With back-to-back picks in the first round, the Celtics took power forward Jared Sullinger and center Fab Melo.
Against the Heat, it'll be important that Sullinger shows he can handle meaningful minutes from the start. If Miami has a weakness, it's a lack of depth on the inside.
The Heat love to go small and play LeBron at the power forward position with Chris Bosh playing at center. The Celtics already have a good answer at center with Kevin Garnett, but Brandon Bass will need some support off the bench. That means Sullinger needs to offer the team depth at the position.
At Ohio State, Sullinger's greatest strength was his rebounding. At 6'9", 280, Sullinger has the frame to succeed right away and should give the Celtics a dimension of toughness that will help them against the finesse Heat frontcourt.