W2W4: Celtics vs. Heat (Game 1 of 82)
* A NICE RING TO IT?: The Heat will receive their rings and raise a championship banner in a pregame ceremony. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said he's uncertain what he'll do with his team during the festivities, but don't expect him to force his team to watch. "If I have to use that [as motivation], then there’s something wrong with our guys," Rivers said. "I don’t think I need to use it as anything to fire our guys up." Rajon Rondo said he'll likely head for the locker room, and the Celtics as a whole might join him. It's like being invited to the wedding between your ex-girlfriend and the guy who used to pick on your in high school. Thanks, but no thanks.
* OLD FRIEND, NEW UNIFORM: Speaking of old flames, the Celtics get to see old friend Ray Allen in his new Heat garb right out of the gates. It seems impossible that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce won't share a moment with Allen at some point -- despite their frustrations with his decision to leave. The more intriguing aspect might be how things play out between Allen and Rondo. There's genuine animosity there that could bubble over, though it's more likely to play itself out in a competitive manner on the floor. It will be interesting to see if the Celtics make a concerted effort to attack Allen's defensive deficiencies.
* STARTERS, FINISHERS: Much has been made about Boston's lineups throughout the preseason. The Celtics ran Courtney Lee and Brandon Bass with the first unit for much of the week, but don't be surprised to see a lineup with Jason Terry and Jeff Green sharing the floor with Rondo, Garnett and Pierce at key junctures (including, potentially, the final moments of the game). Rivers tends to keep his rotations tight in showcase games and, with two days off after the opener, there's a solid chance he'll run his veterans hard and limit the mixing and matching the first time out.
* MATCHUPS, MATCHUPS, MATCHUPS: Rivers and his players scoffed at the notion that Boston spent its offseason building a roster to match the Heat's personnel. The Celtics are quick to point out that they went small at the All-Star break last season (shifting Garnett to center) and that Miami didn't get comfortable with a small lineup (Bosh at center) until Boston forced it to match up in the Eastern Conference finals. Are the Celtics confident enough in their bigger lineups to try to force matchup issues against the size-deprived Heat? How will Boston guard LeBron James and, at the other end of the floor, how do the Heat approach Rondo this time around? It should be a fun chess match.
* HEART OF THE MATTER: Somewhat overshadowed by the rivalry aspect and all the drama that comes with this game is the fact that Green will be playing in his first honest-to-goodness game in 17 months. He sat out all of last season due to an aortic aneurysm and was merely a non-attached spectator when Boston lost to Miami in the playoffs. Green had a stellar preseason and Tuesday's game is his first chance to show his potential (something he never thought he reached after being acquired by Boston at the trade deadline in 2011).
* BASKETBALL IS BACK: The Celtics had a wild offseason, one that started with just four players under contract. Boston didn't just reassemble its core -- well, except for Allen -- it also brought in newfound depth at every position, and there's a lot of optimism around this team about the 2012-13 campaign. As Rivers has been quick to point out, it's an 82-game season. A win Tuesday won't take away the sting of last year's Game 7 loss in East finals, while a loss won't detour Boston's lofty goals for this new year. The regular season is a marathon, but you've got to enjoy the noteworthy checkpoints along the way. Celtics vs. Heat should be a fun way to get things started.
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