7 Things We Learned from Miami Heat's Win over Boston Celtics
So much for a championship hangover for the Miami Heat. They didn't miss a beat after accepting their rings, christening their second banner in franchise history with a 120-107 victory over the archrival Boston Celtics.
And it wasn't even that close. The Heat dominated on both ends of the floor until LeBron James left with leg cramps in the fourth quarter. His absence left the C's with enough leeway to make a game of it in the fourth quarter before Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade sealed the deal with a 9-0 run over the final 1:47.
Not that it was all good news for the defending champs, or all bad for the guys in green. It's the first game of the season, after all, with plenty to work on for both teams.
Whatever may come over the final 81 games for these two Eastern Conference contenders, here's what each team showed for itself on opening night.
This LeBron James Guy Is Pretty Good
You remember LeBron James, don't you? Three-time MVP, Finals MVP, Olympic gold medalist, NBA champion?
James did his best on Tuesday to remind those who might've forgotten how good he really is. He was remarkably efficient, scoring 26 points (on just 16 shots) with 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals in just 29 minutes.
James would have contributed more to Miami's cause if not for persistent leg cramps that bothered him throughout the game and forced him to the bench for good with nine minutes to go.
Solution? Less Sprite, more Gatorade for the King.
What About Dwyane Wade?
Dwyane Wade wasn't too shabby, either. All he did was lead all scorers with 29 points while ferociously attacking the basket the way NBA fans have come to expect from him.
He racked up an astounding 11 free throw attempts, two of which came after Rajon Rondo wrapped his arm around Wade's neck (more on that later), and, as ESPN's Tom Haberstroh pointed out, was effective on those close shots he had a chance to convert:
Dwyane Wade is 1-for-9 outside 10 feet. 9-for-12 inside 10 feet. Sums it up nicely.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) October 31, 2012
Clearly, Wade has plenty left in the tank at age 30, even if his shooting still leaves much to be desired. There's no telling how long his surgically repaired knees will hold up during another long and grueling season.
Don't Forget About Chris Bosh
It's OK, Chris Bosh—we haven't forgotten about you.
The Heat's primary big man was having a fairly quiet first half before LeBron's lack of electrolytes began posing problems in the third quarter. From then on, Bosh stepped up his game, pouring in 13 of his 19 points over the final 16:22 while making play after game-saving play on the defensive end.
None bigger than an emphatic block on an attempted layup by Paul Pierce with 1:07 remaining.
Bosh's 10 boards were just as crucial to the cause, and if continues to play this big over the course of the season, there may be no stopping Miami from running roughshod over the NBA with its small-ball schematics.
Rajon Rondo, Player vs. Leader
The numbers don't lie—Rajon Rondo had a phenomenal season debut. He poured in 20 points (on 14 shots) and approached triple-double territory with 13 dimes and seven boards to boot.
What the numbers don't show, though, was Rondo's lack of poise late in the game. He did all he could to get the Celtics back in the game in the fourth quarter.
But when his efforts fell short, Rondo let his emotions get the best of him, wrapping up Wade with a flagrant horse-collar foul after the Heat superstar schooled him in the post.
Rondo has all the talent and basketball know-how to be an MVP contender in this, his seventh, NBA season. The question is, has he yet developed the leadership and poise under pressure to fit the profile?
Where's the D?
Frustration from Rondo is nothing new.
What is new, though, is the Celtics defense getting shredded. Boston allowed Miami to shoot 54.4 percent of the field while drawing up easy shots seemingly at the hosts' leisure. Along the way, the Heat became the first team to score 120 points against the C's in a non-overtime game since March 17, 2009, when the Chicago Bulls topped them in a 127-121 shootout.
Was this a case of subpar marking by the C's? Or is Miami's unique attack just that good?
Or was this simply an anomaly for both teams? After all, the Heat have been known to play some strong defense in their time, and even they couldn't keep the typically offensively challenged Celtics from torching them for 107 points on 52 percent shooting.
A Mixed Bag for Boston's New Boys
Celtics GM Danny Ainge did well to reload the Celtics roster over the summer.
At least, that seemed to be the case up until opening night. Jeff Green repaid Ainge for his four-year, $36-million deal with three points, three rebounds and some horrid defense in in 23 minutes.
True, Green would hardly be the first to be embarrassed by LeBron on national TV, but you know there's something wrong with a guy when he's getting taken to school in the post by Rashard Lewis.
Jason Terry was no savior, either. He hit just two of his seven shots from the field and wound up riding the pine in crunch time.
An unusual development for JET, to be sure, though a defensible move for Doc Rivers given how well Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa played. Lee chipped in 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and played solid (and, at times, spectacular) defense on D-Wade, albeit in a mere 24 minutes.
As for Barbosa, he almost single-handedly dragged the C's back into the game by himself. His 16 points (all in the fourth quarter) helped Boston to narrow the gap down the stretch. Surely Doc will have to carve out some minutes for the blazing Brazilian once Avery Bradley returns.
Ray Can Still Play
You know what the Celtics could use? A sharpshooter to open up the floor.
What's that? They used to have one?
Oh...right...and now he plays for Miami. Awkwaaarrrrd.
Ray Allen lit up his old 'mates for 19 points on just seven shots in his Heat debut. The bigger surprise, though, was the way Ray lived at the line—seven-of-eight from the free-throw stripe on the night.
Say what you will about Ray being the NBA's newest Benedict Arnold, but it's tough to blame the guy for taking his talents to South Beach (while taking a pay cut) after seeing how easily everything came to him while playing next to LeBron, Wade and Bosh.