Rapid Reaction: Heat 120, Celtics 107
THE NITTY GRITTY
Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 29 points, while LeBron James posted 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead Miami's offensive explosion. Old friend Ray Allen added 19 points on 5-of-7 shooting over 30 minutes off the bench. Paul Pierce registered a team-high 23 points for Boston, while Brandon Bass (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (20 points, 13 assists) added double-doubles. The Celtics whittled an 18-point deficit (100-82) down to four (111-107) with 2:09 to go, but couldn't complete the comeback, even with James sidelined due to cramps.
Down a point (51-50) with 3½ minutes to go in the first half, the Celtics may have let this one slip away before the intermission. Miami embarked on an 11-4 run, highlighted by a head-shaking sequence in which Bosh emphatically blocked a Jeff Green baseline drive before James ran undeterred down the middle of the lane for a loud slam and a 62-54 lead. An inability to close out quarters bit Boston again in the third frame when a 12-2 burst by the Heat had the hosts out front 93-76 heading to the final 12 minutes. Those late-quarter let-ups really hurt when Boston couldn't dig itself out of the big hole late in the game.
KG NOT INTERESTED IN HELLOS
Allen made his Miami debut by checking in with 2:45 to play in the first quarter. After sharing a hug with former coach Doc Rivers and greeting his staff, Allen reached across to pat Garnett on the back, but Garnett barely glanced in his direction. It's worth noting that Garnett likely wouldn't acknowledge his mother if she tried to get his attention during a game, but clearly he wasn't interested in making in-game small talk.
BLURRED VISION: BARBOSA A LATE SPARK
The Celtics desperately needed a jolt at the start of the fourth quarter and Leandro Barbosa provided it, scoring nine points in a span of 2:02 to light the fuse. Barbosa finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting -- all his points coming in the final frame -- but it wasn't enough to propel Boston all the way back.
ROUGH RETURN FOR GREEN
Jeff Green's feel-good return to the court -- he was playing his first real game since May of 2011 after missing all of last season with an aortic aneurysm -- was diminished by his on-court struggles. Green missed all four shots he took and finished with just three points while having his share of troubles on the defensive end.
LOOSE BALLS: EARLY WORK FOR SULLY
The Celtics went with Bass in the starting lineup, but rookie Jared Sullinger was the first big off the bench (replacing Kevin Garnett 5½ minutes in). With the Heat going small much of the night, Sullinger did not play in the second half. ... Rivers leaned hard on a seven-man rotation (the starters, plus Green and Jason Terry) with Barbosa making a splash late. ... Rondo got tagged with a late flagrant foul 1 for wrapping up Wade high around the neck on a drive to the hoop in the final moments.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics struggled defensively in the preseason and it carried over to the first game of the season. Rivers admitted it might take his team some time to find its way, particularly with all the new faces, but Boston absolutely cannot give up 120 points, even if it's against a squad like the Heat. The Celtics pride themselves on defense and have to clean up the woes that plagued them in Miami (and there were many). Boston gets a couple days off before its home opener on Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden.
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