After a very eventful summer, the most anticipated start to an NBA season did not disappoint. The Boston and Miami Heat, arguably the two best teams in the Eastern Conference, battled for early season bragging rights. Each team threw their best punch, but in the end, the Celtics walked away with the victory and plenty of questions that need answering.
Pierce and defense tried their best to guard Lebron
As expected, the Miami Heat looked a bit rusty to start the game. However, some of that 'rustiness' is attributed to the Celtics defense. In the first half, Miami was held to 26.8% shooting to go along with 12 turnovers. Lebron James was held to 4-9 shooting, D. Wade managed a brutal 2-10, and Bosh chipped in with 1-8 shooting. The Heat only managed 30 points at the half; their lowest half time total last season was 32.
The Celtics offense is clearly on Rondo's shoulders this season. He is the catalyst for everything they plan on accomplishing this season. While it was evident that the Heat still had no respect for his jumpshot, Rondo was to slice through the defense while earning 17 assists. Perhaps the most important statistic is that he only had 3 turnovers on the night.
There were times that Rondo could have been more aggressive attacking with the rim. Carlos Arroyo and Eddie House are not defensive forces to be reckoned with. Celtics fans know that Rondo usually steps up his game against top PG's in the league, but it's time that he start to take every match-up seriously.
At the beginning of training camp, Glen Davis questioned his role on the Celtics. Hard to blame him considering the new additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal. After a Doc Rivers tongue lashing in the media, Davis realized that his role on the team will be much bigger than previously expected. Against Miami's smaller frontline, Davis 13 points while shooting an efficient 6-7 and pulled down 5 rebounds. The Celtics should be able to count on this type of production through the season as Davis is not known for his inconsistency.
As much as I hate to say it, Phil Jackson was right last season when he said that the Celtics have trouble closing out games. That was a major topic during training camp for the Celtics and something that absolutely needs to change this season. The Celtics lead by as any as 19 points during the game, but the Heat managed to close within single digits with the game in balance. Thankfully, Paul Pierce returned from his back spams to guide the Celtics to victory to along with timely three's from Ray Allen.
The Celtics know that they have to finish games better. On the bright side, there's only a handful of players who can rally a team from a deficit like LeBron James. Regardless, the Heat and Celtics are expected to collide during the post-season and Boston simply can not allow the Miami to finish the game with any confidence.
LeBron and D. Wade have a lot to work on
There's no question that the Celtics have a deeper roster and a better bench. Pat Riley did a good job filling out the roster with shooters and serviceable big men, but Miami's "Big Three" is burdened with tremendous pressure, unlike Boston's "Big Three". Dwyane Wade's absence in the pre-season and minimal playing time along with Bosh and James resulted in a lethargic Heat offense.
Miami can learn from Boston how to play like a team and time is still on their side. Chemistry is a large reason the Celtics play well together as team, despite the egos and ex-superstars. So far, Wade, James, and Bosh have all said the right things, but only time will tell if they can mesh well.
In all fairness, it's not easy starting the season against the best defensive team in the league.