It ended up being a lot less close than the scoreboard dictated.
The answer is, not well.
The Heat went 4-17 in a nine-point first quarter that was marked by confusion and incompetence.
The Heat looked a lot like LeBron's Cavaliers; relatively one-dimensional. LeBron took over in the third quarter, but it was not enough to prevent the loss. Dwyane Wade was 4-16, Chris Bosh was 3-11, but those stats do not sum up the Heat's problems.
It goes without saying that soon the Heat will look better. Their chemistry will improve and they will begin to play together.
On Tuesday night, it was all isolation plays for Miami. Credit the Celtics defense with not allowing the Heat easy shots, but there was no cohesiveness amongst the Heat elite. Most of Wade's shots were well defended, with Wade inevitably forcing up a shot.
The lack of inside presence for the Heat is something that will be no more apparent than against teams like the Celtics. The Celtics were tenacious on the boards, revealing the possibility that the acquisitions of the two O'Neal's could be the solution to the Celtics rebounding woes; a weakness that ultimately cost them the title last year.
The t-e-a-m aspect of the Celtics that has led them to the NBA Finals two of the last three years (would have been three if not for the Garnett injury), was their ticket to victory against the Heat, and it will be their greatest strength all year long.
The loss cannot be completely blamed on Miami's lack of time together as a unit, as their defense looked fairly capable, particularly in the second half. How do three players that were once the focal point of their teams, that have never known anything else than being the number one guy, learn to play together? It certainly won't be easy.
Regardless of the Heat defense, the Celtics ball movement was tremendous throughout. The presence of Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal demonstrated an anticipated improvement in an inside-out playing style.
Glen Davis looks like he might live up to his off-season claims of a “defining season.” Davis was consistently strong to the hoop and seemed more aware of his surroundings in finding the open man. He will continue to be a huge asset off the bench, particularly while Kendrick Perkins is gone.
The Heat had extensive difficulties getting in the paint, and so will the rest of Boston's opponents. Along with the new inside presence, the Celtics look as healthy as ever.
Kevin Garnett looked back to form, defending pick and rolls and staying tight on defenders. Marquis Daniels went 4-5 and seems to finally have his quickness back.
Paul Pierce looks leaner, quicker, and more assertive going to the rack (I won't go on an extensive rant regarding the block call against LeBron). It wouldn't be surprising if Pierce has re-ignited the athletic capabilities he had a few years ago.
Bench players like Daniels and Nate Robinson are progressively finding their place in the Celtics' plans.
Granted, it is only the beginning of the year; there are sure to be some injuries down the road, but Doc Rivers will keep the veteran squad in constant check. The fact that Boston is not starting the season off with any significant injuries is the best case scenario.
The Celtics have an improved depth that will likely make them a much better team than in recent years. Opponents may be amazed that Boston's defensive intensity could possibly be better that it was in 2007-08, but after holding the supposedly “extremely dynamic” Heat to 80 points, that may be just what the future holds.
The Celtics looked even better than their wide skill-set and depth indicated going into Tuesday's contest; it's hard to believe that Kendrick Perkins will re-join the team early next year, and that in only ten games Delonte West will be added to the mix.
Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics organization seem to have created an absolute monster.