Miami Heat Index: Paul Pierce

Heat, Nets share learning experience

November, 2, 2013
11/02/13
1:00
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- As the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat headed into opposite tunnels late Friday night, players stole looks over their shoulders at each other.

Games between these two teams are side-eye specials. There’s a little vinegar in almost every possession, be it Jason Terry encouraging the crowd to boo behind LeBron James’ back when he’s at the foul line or Dwyane Wade doing little fly-bys of the Nets’ bench after baskets.

But as they retreated after the Nets’ 101-100 victory in the first of what could be many intriguing games this season, the stares were appraising in nature.

Yes, this is a rivalry, with slights and bruises going back a decade in some cases. That’s all understood. But on this night, the two teams learned something about each other. Beyond the drama of the final minute, in which the Heat almost erased a five-point deficit in a near Finals flashback. Beyond a free throw Ray Allen should've made and Chris Bosh should've missed. Beyond the Nets getting their first win against the Heat since 2009, were more substantial lessons.

The Heat felt just how deep and flexible the Nets' $180 million roster can be and tasted the sort of issues it could cause them over the long haul. And the Nets felt just how hard it can be just to beat the Heat one time -- even on a good night -- and tasted the reality of just how hard it might be to have to beat them four out of seven in a playoff series down the road.

“They’re impressive,” said Wade, who looked healthy in scoring 21 points. “They’re going to be a team we’re going to battle with. They made the Eastern Conference tougher. They’re going to be a good team, there’s no secret about that.”

The impressive part to the Heat is not the star power. It sells tickets and drives ratings, but the Heat are well past the point of getting impressed with playing against teams stacked with All-Stars, current or former.

No, what got to them was just how many different ways the Nets could come at them.

The Heat’s opposition has had three years to manage their rosters and make moves to combat the powerhouse in South Florida. No organization has been as aggressive as Brooklyn, and most of its moves have been aimed at taking down the Heat’s strengths. The Nets' progress in this area was evident right away.

The automatic response when looking at the two teams is to look at the Nets’ size advantage. But size has never scared the Heat, and it has yet to beat them since they added pieces such as Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen that make their space-conscious lineups so hard for opponents to handle.

But the Nets aren't just big. They can be small, they can play all perimeter-based players at once if they want and they can even play reasonably fast.

The Nets played center Brook Lopez just 20 minutes Friday -- he was in foul trouble, but it didn't really matter. They moved Andrei Kirilenko around. They played Kevin Garnett at both power forward and center. They got quality minutes and multiple positions from Alan Anderson. Even Andray Blatche gave the Heat problems at times.

“They’re similar to us, they can play different styles,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That should serve them well.”

That’s a compliment and an understated “game on” from Spoelstra, who engineered a system with the Heat that allows them to create matchup advantages because so many of his players can swing between positions.

The Nets don’t have James, who can play all five positions, and they don’t have a creator like Wade. But they can put five players on the floor at once who aren't afraid to take a pressure shot and have to be respected.

Friday, Paul Pierce had 17 points in the second half and a few clutch plays down the stretch, including what had to be a satisfying block of James, who also had 17 of his 26 points after halftime. But it could just as easily have been Deron Williams, Joe Johnson or Garnett who came up big. Those terms sound a lot like describing the Heat.

When the game was over, it was noted Miami hadn't lost back-to-back games since last January and they hadn't been below .500 -- they’re now 1-2 -- since losing their first game in Boston back in 2010.

If you were to ask the Heat, the last time they were below .500 was when they were down 3-2 to the Spurs in last season’s Finals. The point being they never panic. They were down 12 points with 2:47 to go and nearly forced overtime because with their experience, athleticism and array of 3-point shooters, there is no such thing as a safe lead.

Just ask the Spurs about that.

There’s a reason they’re 11-1 in playoff series over the past three years and they’ve come from behind over and over. They are always just a possession or two away from being great. So no matter how much you spend, how deep your roster is or how big your lead might be, the Heat are always dangerous.

“We've played in every kind of game you can imagine,” James said. “We understand what we have to fix and correct.”

Heat-Nets: The new must-see rivalry

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
12:31
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- LeBron James hasn’t liked Paul Pierce since they almost got into a fight after a preseason game in 2004. He hasn’t liked Jason Terry since James was a rookie in 2003 when Terry undercut him on a dangerous flagrant foul. He hasn’t liked Kevin Garnett since, well, as long as he can remember.

History trumps laundry. If you ever had a doubt the rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat would transfer to Brooklyn, let the past two days give you the answer. The Heat and Nets played a generally meaningless preseason game Thursday night, won by the Nets 86-62, but it wasn’t message-less.

James fired first on Wednesday when he answered the innocuous question of “What was the first thing you thought when the Nets traded for Garnett and Pierce?” with a controlled rant that not-so-thinly branded them hypocrites for their treatment of Ray Allen when he left the Celtics a year earlier. The words flowed from James with such ease that you could tell he’d given this same speech in private many times and probably with much more edge and venom.

Thursday within the first few minutes of the game, Garnett had covertly raked James across the face while looking the other way, James’ mussed headband leaving evidence. A few moments later, Pierce body checked James on a fast break, the first of several playoff-style fouls he issued to James during the game.

The James-Pierce dynamic was the only thing interesting going on. They were playing at a different speed. Pushing, glaring, competing. James was issuing stares toward the Nets’ bench after made baskets. He ball hawked Pierce full court in the final seconds of the third quarter, their last time on the floor, like it was a game-deciding possession.

“They had some competitive skirmishes, yeah,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in summing it up.

Pierce had no comment on the matter. James said “I’m just trying to get better,” a catchall phrase he likes to use when he’s not all that interested in answering a question.

Garnett went further.

“Tell LeBron to worry about Miami,” Garnett said. “He has nothing to do with Celtic business.”

Celtic business, Nets business, Heat business, Cleveland Cavaliers business, Dallas Mavericks business, doesn’t matter. There’s little point in parsing the details. These players are in deep with each other, and the dislike has more depth than the respect.

Pierce and Garnett crushed James’ dreams twice in the playoffs in Cleveland. Dwyane Wade has his own history with the Celtics -- the playoff loss they gave him in 2010 convinced him to change his entire world in an effort to beat them. Allen’s situation is self-evident. Who knows what sort of things Garnett has spoken into Chris Bosh’s ears over the years, but there’s no love lost there either. Terry ran his mouth throughout the 2011 Finals when his Mavericks twice came from behind to take the title from the Heat. This version of the Heat twice ended the Celtics' season, the final blow in Game 7 in 2012 essentially ending their run together.

This is simply a can’t-miss rivalry.

“Yeah,” Wade said when asked if the disdain would carry down from New England. “I know you’re looking for a better answer, but yeah.”

Heat president Pat Riley, who was at the game Thursday in a rare preseason road trip, has a saying about the “always forever and the always never.” It’s one of his gems that is so memorable because it’s so true.

“When you win a championship together you have that always forever,” Riley said recently. “When you see each other when you’re 65 years old, you’ll always have it, it never goes away.”

Riley’s always never is just as binding. This core of players has competed year after year against each other, that have ruined seasons, that have made nightmares of summers. In an era in which opponents party together, vacation together and work out together, these rivals will always never like each other. Not in any of the perhaps 10 or more times they’ll play this season, not at their kids’ AAU games, not when they see each other at Hall of Fame functions.

Probably not even when they’re 65.

Will Heat and Celtics face each other again?

April, 13, 2013
4/13/13
12:34
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- Last summer, when the Miami Heat were plucking Ray Allen out of free agency and the Boston Celtics were answering with a roster retrofit that took aim at the champs, it seemed like an inevitability that this postseason would hold another great series between the two.

When Pat Riley was telling Danny Ainge to “shut the [bleep] up” and LeBron James was trash talking Jason Terry after a classic game between the two teams last month, it felt like destiny would have the scenario fall into place yet again.

But as the final scheduled game went out with a whimper Friday night -- the Heat won 109-101, but the game felt hollow with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce taking the night off to nurse injuries -- it's fair to fear that’s it this season between the great rivals.

Since the Heat won in Boston to extend their winning streak more than three weeks ago, the Celtics have dropped nine of 13 games. But the Milwaukee Bucks, who have dropped 10 of 13 (including blowing a 19-point lead Friday night in Atlanta), have been just as bad and kept the Celtics in the seventh seed as the Heat clinched No. 1.

It seems almost a certainty now that the Heat and Celtics will be separated in the playoff bracketing. The Celtics have pulled postseason miracles in the near past, but it will now take something rather historic for the two teams to see each other again, and that is a downright shame.

James has faced off against the Celtics four times in the past six postseasons. Those series have largely defined his career and contained both his greatest successes and failures. They’ve been as constant as a demanding older brother, and it would feel like a family member is missing from the dinner table if it doesn’t play itself out again.

“I’m so accustomed to playing them at some point in the playoffs,” James, who had 20 points in 29 minutes Friday night, said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Dwyane Wade has seen them three seasons in a row. Last postseason, when Boston beat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 to reach the conference finals against Miami, James said “it wouldn’t be right” if the two didn’t see each other in May.

When the Celtics went 14-4 in the immediate aftermath of losing Rajon Rondo to a knee injury and Jared Sullinger with a back injury, anything seemed possible. Because they’re the Celtics, anything still is.

But coach Doc Rivers is toning down the optimism now with his team struggling. At this point, he’s giving major minutes to midseason pickups like Jordan Crawford, Shavlik Randolph and Terrence Williams, and there’s no clarity on how ankle injuries to Pierce and Garnett will affect them when the playoffs start in a week.

Most likely, they will start in New York against a Knicks team that’s hammered them twice in the past two weeks.

“With this team, we don’t have home-court advantage, and that’s a concern,” Rivers said. “We have Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett; other than that, we don’t have anyone who has been to the playoffs together. Jason Terry will be ready, but other than that, we don’t have any experience together, and that’s a concern.”

The Celtics have been playoff underdogs before and looked old and depleted as they limped to the regular-season finish line. They were a game away from winning the title in 2010 as an underdog and pushed the Heat to a Game 7 last season. Both postseasons, they were the No. 4 seed.

But, as Rivers points out, they’re missing mainstays Rondo and, because of Heat interference, Allen this time around. The well of chemistry and culture isn’t as deep. A playoff run this season would be these Celtics’ greatest trick yet.

“The cookie crumbles different ways every year,” Allen said with a shrug.

For the Heat, who steamed to their 34th win in the past 36 games as they got James, Wade and Chris Bosh out on the floor together after two weeks of rotating rest, not having to worry about the Celtics is an unusual feeling this time of season. So just in case, they will leave the door open.

“They may surprise the general public, but we know what that team is capable of,” Bosh said. “You never know with those guys.”

LeBron focused on game, not his first ring

October, 30, 2012
10/30/12
9:38
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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LeBron
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
LeBron James will receive his first title ring before Tuesday's opener, but don't expect much emotion.


MIAMI -- If LeBron James gets emotional during Tuesday night’s ring ceremony, it’ll probably be a surprise to him. If you see him wearing it anytime soon, that’ll be a surprise, too.

This is the third time in the past five years opening night has been a ring night for James. In 2008, he waited in the cramped visitors locker room at TD Garden in Boston as Paul Pierce wept on the floor where the Celtics ended James’ season five months earlier.

Last Christmas, as Dirk Nowitzki got a little misty eyed as the Mavericks’ championship banner headed toward the ceiling in Dallas, James paced in a nearby hallway waiting to face another team that ended his season on the way to its celebration.

After everything James has been through -- getting swept in his first Finals in 2007, failing to get back after being the No. 1 overall seed two years in a row in Cleveland in 2009 and 2010, blowing a Finals lead in 2011, being forced to hide from two ring ceremonies along the way -– it would seem logical that James would anticipate the Heat’s jewelry presentation as a cathartic release. It is a time when showing emotion is expected and even encouraged.

But in what is just the latest example of James’ all-business approach to this season, he almost couldn’t sound more detached about the moment.

When he finished off the Oklahoma City Thunder in June with a triple-double in Game 5 of the Finals, the pure joy showed on James' face as he grasped the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time. The next morning he shared his “pinch me” moment with his Twitter followers by declaring, “I think it just hit me. I am a CHAMPION. I AM A CHAMPION.”

Now, with the rival Celtics in town in a fitting reversal of the 2008 ring ceremony, all James can focus on is getting back and not looking back. It’s shown in his focus and his play throughout the Heat’s training camp and it was certainly showing in the way he’s approaching Tuesday’s pregame festivities.

“Winning it was what I dreamed of, I never dreamed of actually having the ring ceremony,” James said. “So I’m just like whatever. I think it’s going to be a special night and I’m going to be excited for it. But the game is what I’m more focused on than actually receiving the ring.”

James has said he wishes that the Heat could’ve had the ring ceremony on Monday so that it wouldn’t come before such a key early-season game. James is, of course, concerned about a team-wide letdown. The Heat were up by 35 points on the Mavericks on their ring night last year. The Heat themselves lost by 42 points on their ring night back in 2006-07 to the Chicago Bulls. But defending champs have actually won 10 of the past 13 years on ring night.

But James’ attitude on the matter is part of what seems like a concerted strategy to move on from last season. He doesn’t even seem like he’s going to spend much time examining his prize.

“Do I look like the type of guy that would wear my ring every day? Nope.” James said. “It will be put up somewhere with the rest of my individual accolades. That’s a team thing. But I’m moving on.”

The “moving on” part is what has caught the attention of his opponents already in the young season. Even with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra trying to take it a little easier on him in the preseason after his summer playing with Team USA and the expected allowances for a deserved victory lap, James has been all business thus far. James has appeared in midseason form throughout the preseason and was routinely one of the last players on the court after practice, putting in work on new phases of his game, including a hook shot.

“He’s more comfortable in his skin, and I think that’s what he is now,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

"He’s got that off his back. He can breathe and play, which makes him better. He knows he can do it. He knows he can make big shots. He knows he can will a team. He had done it in the past. He just had never done it on a big stage. Now, he’s done it and so nothing changes for him. He’s still the guy that everybody is going after. It’s not like he wasn’t the target last year. He’s the same target. The target’s bigger.”

That may be so, but James seems oblivious to outside expectations now and numb to anything except focusing on being able to shrug off another ring night this time next year.

“Everybody has been gunning for us since I’ve come here, they’ve all gunned for us, so it doesn’t change,” James said. “For me, it’s just the start of a new year.”

Ray Allen's words ... and what they mean

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
6:11
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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Ray Allen
Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
Ray Allen stepped to the microphone alongside coach Erik Spoelstra and embraced his new team.

MIAMI -- Ray Allen, the most productive 3-point shooter in NBA history, officially became a member of the defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday after signing a two-year contract to end his free agency.

It was a tough and emotional decision for Allen, who left the Boston Celtics after five seasons that included an NBA title in 2008. Here are eight storylines from Allen's Boston departure and arrival in Miami, based on some key statements from his introductory press conference.

(Connecting with Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra)
What Allen said: “I had an opportunity to sit down and really discuss basketball philosophy with (Riley). He's got a lot of great stories. I had a lot of questions for him. I followed him for as long as I followed basketball. Same with coach Spoelstra. We talked about every basketball philosophy we shared, to a point where he said, 'Well, I don't know if you're coming, but I'll just tell you this anyway.'"

What it means: Boston simply might have taken Allen for granted, and Miami took advantage. There's no question Allen was feeling a bit underappreciated and overlooked. In Miami, Allen was almost treated like his character Jesus Shuttlesworth on college recruiting visits in that "He Got Game" movie.

(Friction with Rajon Rondo factoring in decision)
What Allen said: “I haven't spoken with him at all. I know when I came down here, I texted Paul (Pierce) and Kevin (Garnett). Those are the guys I had talked quite a bit with over the years ... There are differences. We all have differences. Paul eats Corn Flakes. I might not like Corn Flakes. That's kind of who we are as individuals ... as players we have to put our differences aside.”

What it means: There really was a rift between Rondo and Allen. Boston has gradually become Rondo's team. He's its best player and most volatile personality. The difference is the Celtics still pay Pierce like a megastar and treats Garnett like one. But Allen's ego was compromised a bit.

(The role Allen expects to play in Miami)
What Allen said: “You mean I'm not starting? I wish they would have told me that last week. Going into this process, I never said whether I wanted to start or come off the bench. That was never really an issue. Whatever is going to be best for me in this situation is going to figure itself out. This team won a championship without me. I'm not going to come in and expect for Coach to cater to who I am and what I do. I have to make it work on the floor with my teammates. I always said whether you start or come off the bench, the best compliment is who you finish the game up with.”

What it means: Allen wanted to put to rest any notion that he demanded to be a starter -- or necessarily play starter's minutes -- moving forward. The fact that he made light of the situation showed he has a sense of humor and a willingness to take on whatever role Miami has for him. But there's little doubt that Allen will play a significant role, likely as the first guard off the bench and in the closing lineup at the end of competitive games.

(Could Boston have done more to keep Allen?)
What Allen said: “It's hard to say. It's hard to say.”

What it means: Of course there's more Boston could have done. Perhaps trade Rondo. Maybe guarantee a third year on that reported two-year, $12 million offer. More likely, the damage had already been done before the start of free agency. Allen was ready to move on. Those attempts to trade him took a toll, as did demoting him to sixth man. In reality, the Celtics and Allen were better off parting ways.

(Are “traitor” insults from Boston fans upsetting?)
What Allen said: “I've given so much, not only on the floor but off the floor. I think that there's a sense of sadness and hurt that the people feel. And we feel that, too, as a family. And that's understandable. But we're still a part of that community. Our home is still in Boston. That's not going to change how we feel about the people there. It doesn't bother me. I know who I am.”

What it means: Allen has built up so much goodwill over his decorated career that it will be impossible for him to ever be viewed as a bad guy for long. He'll be like Joe Dumars on those Bad Boys team in Detroit. He's just too likeable and respectable. He made a decision as a free agent. But it'll still be tough for some to buy into his declaration of “always being a Celtic” while playing for the Heat and working for a man in Riley who coached the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks. That basically covers the gamut of Boston's fiercest sports rivals.

(How bad was Allen's ankle that required surgery?)
What Allen said: “Surgery was good. I was walking within four or five days. Not a lot of swelling. Even now, if I do too much on it -- I haven't worked out, I haven't been given the clearance to work out yet -- if I do too much walking on it, it gets a little tender. But for the most part, I'm feeling really good moving forward. The playoffs, I was probably a day away from just having surgery when I decided I was going to play and try to stay along to help the team win. I think one day more, I probably would have had surgery. That's how much it bothered me.”

What it means: No one can say Allen didn't give Boston his all late in the season while playing on an ankle that obviously required serious attention. After having surgery in June to remove bone spurs, Allen says he's about a month from being cleared for serious basketball activity, putting him well on pace to be ready for training camp.

(Attempts from Garnett/Pierce to keep Allen)
What Allen said: “When I knew I was leaning toward Miami, I actually sent a text to Kevin, just to let him know that -- I remember this process in 2008 when (James) Posey left us. And we just really wanted him back and he went to New Orleans, and we didn't get a chance to get Danny (Ainge) to try to give him a little something extra. I didn't want that to be the same case with me in this situation. So I texted Kevin and said, 'Hey, I'm leaning this way and I just want you to know, without getting into the finite details of the deals.' He said, 'Well, Danny will step up to the plate and do whatever you need him to do.' So, I was like, 'We'll see.'”

What it means: Perhaps this was a veiled attempt by Allen to place some of the responsibility for his departure on Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. It sounds like Allen was at least open to hearing a better offer from Boston after he informed people he was leaning toward Miami. By then, Boston was well into its contingency plan. And rightfully so.

(Recruiting pitch from LeBron James/Dwyane Wade)
What Allen said: “I got texts from both of them. It wasn't me as much that they influenced. But it was the people around me that it excited. It showed them that these guys really like you and want you on their team. As much as they seem bigger than life on TV and just won a championship, they took the time out to reach out and to say something nice about you. The people who care a lot about me and love me, it meant a lot to them.”

What it means: As Allen said earlier, the fact that the Heat won a title and still felt they needed him on the roster to be even better next season carried a lot of weight with him at a sensitive time. The Celtics and Heat have ended the other team's season each of the past three years. There's a history of mutual respect there. Assuming health, jobs on the court just became easier for Allen and his new teammates.

Why Celtics Might Be Trouble For Heat

April, 1, 2012
4/01/12
12:41
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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As you get ready for Sunday's nationally televised showdown between the regrouping Heat and the resurgent Celtics, here are five reasons why leaving Boston with a victory will be a very difficult task for Miami if LeBron James and Co. don't bring their "A" game to the Garden.

Heat heed warning signs in Game 1 win

May, 2, 2011
5/02/11
6:07
PM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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LeBron James
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Sport
LeBron James and the Heat were outplayed by the Celtics in the second half of Game 1.

MIAMI -- Trying not to get caught up in the afterglow of what he knew was probably just the beginning of a rugged series, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told his players he wanted them to come down with a quick case of amnesia following their Game 1 victory over the Boston Celtics.

That was an effective little turn of phrase intended to keep the Heat as eager as they were heading into the series opener Sunday. After looking forward to the series for months, they seemed to have more intensity and aggression than the Celtics from the start.

But the thing is, Spoelstra doesn’t actually mean it. He’d much rather they not forget what happened Sunday, especially some events in the second half that the Celtics surely will be using as building blocks in their preparation for Game 2.

The Heat might have avoided the trap of getting a little cocky with their series lead, but the Celtics didn’t leave the arena looking at all worried, either. Spoelstra and the Heat were pleased with the effort but saw some warning signs they need to address on both sides of the ball.

“We know how dangerous the Boston Celtics are,” Spoelstra said after his team’s film session and light practice Monday afternoon. “Particularly in a situation like this, down one game.”

Spoelstra’s attitude seemed to rub off on his players, as they admitted they can’t play the same type of style and expect to win Game 2.

“They’re coming with the mindset that going back to Boston with the series 1-1 and they’ve done their job,” LeBron James said.

The Celtics played timidly and were in some foul trouble in the first half Sunday, most notably point guard Rajon Rondo. He didn’t have a basket or an assist in the first half, as he spent all but a minute of the second quarter on the bench in foul trouble.

Rondo's absence, combined with some uncharacteristically passive play from Kevin Garnett (who had just six points in the game), were the primary reasons Boston scored a season-low 36 points in the first half. It was the Celtics’ clear game plan to feature them both. The Celtics repeatedly called isolation plays for Garnett in the first half, but he never got anything going as the Heat's help defenders did a strong job forcing him out of rhythm.

“I thought [Rondo] and Kevin played the game in, though instead of intensity, they were thinking about what they should do instead of just playing,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “They both played with the right spirit; it just didn’t go well.”

By the second half, though, Rondo was back on the floor and the Celtics found an impressive offensive groove. They outscored the Heat 54-48 as Rondo racked up seven assists while the team shot 50 percent after hitting fewer than 36 percent of its attempts in the first half.

After not being able to distribute against the Heat’s defense early on, Rondo was able to get into transition and earn the Celtics some easy points. He helped Boston get 11 fastbreak points in the second half after only four in the first half.

He also was more effective at getting his team better looks inside the paint, the other telltale sign Rondo was doing his job. After the Celtics shot just 5-of-18 in the paint in the first half, they were 8-of-14 in the second half.

Some of it was getting his trademark two-man game going with Paul Pierce, who had 17 of his 19 points in the second half before being ejected with eight minutes to play. Expect the Celtics to go back to those plays early and often in Game 2.

The Heat also spent time looking at their offensive trends in Game 1, which they weren’t thrilled by. Getting 99 points was a triumph against an excellent defensive team. But they were a bit concerned about how they got them.

The Heat got 25 of their 99 points off Boston’s 17 turnovers and 47 of them off jump shots. Both are fantastic in terms of production, but the Heat know those likely aren’t sustainable. They also got five points off technical and flagrant fouls, something else they know they can’t count on.

In short, the Heat players said Monday they feel like they’re going to need to find some higher percentage shots within their half-court offense, something they excelled at during the last six weeks of the season. Some of that will fall to Chris Bosh, who wasn’t much of an offensive factor with just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.

It was Bosh’s lowest-scoring outing in 23 games. The last time he scored seven points, in a loss to Portland in March, he came out after the game and asked to be more involved in the offense. This time he won’t have to bring it up, as his teammates likely will be looking to get him going.

“Both teams are good defensive teams, and we’re both trying to crack the code,” Bosh said. “I don’t think we can rely on the good shooting that we had. We need to put more pressure on the rim.”

The book on LeBron James vs. Boston

April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
7:00
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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LeBron James
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
If LeBron James wants to beat the Celtics, he'll need to overcome his struggles against Paul Pierce.

It all hinges on LeBron James.

The overarching narratives and the on-court dynamics both depend on the two-time MVP and how well he performs under the pressures of history and against the Boston Celtics.

Everyone wants to know how LeBron will do, but few people are better equipped to respond to that question than ESPN researcher Peter Newmann and Dean Oliver, ESPN’s director of analytics and former director of quantitative analysis for the Denver Nuggets.

This is not an understatement: Newmann and Oliver have probably studied more Celtics-Heat film than anybody outside the video rooms in Miami and Boston. Knowing they can’t predict the future, Newmann and Oliver looked to the past to answer another question:

How has LeBron done?

Well, let’s start with the basics first. LeBron has played against the Celtics four times this season and has averaged 28.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in 42 minutes of playing time. His 3-point shot has been off -- he's only 3-for-15 from downtown -- but otherwise, he has shot 55.2 percent on 2-pointers against the vaunted Celtics defense.

But that’s all surface statistics. Newmann and Oliver dug deeper, breaking down every single one of the 277 offensive possessions during which LeBron was on the court against the Celtics.

277.

A number of trends came to light, but here are three of the most compelling that they found:

1. Paul Pierce is the antidote to LeBron James

Defending LeBron is never a one-on-one ordeal, let’s get that out of the way. But if LeBron wants to get to the NBA Finals, he may have to plow through three of the best wing defenders in the NBA in Andre Iguodala, Paul Pierce and Luol Deng. Iguodala did an admirable job defending LeBron, but Pierce may have his number.

According to Newmann and Oliver, Pierce checked LeBron 69 percent of the time, with Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Marquis Daniels (no longer with the team) filling in the rest. But against Pierce, LeBron shot just 43 percent from the field and his efficiency plummeted to depths rarely seen from him. In fact, LeBron scored 75 points per 100 possessions with Pierce covering him, down from his 93 points per 100 possessions when guarded by all other Celtics defenders.

That’s a huge difference, and considering how often the ball is in LeBron’s hands, it's imperative for the Celtics that Pierce to avoid foul trouble.

2. Rajon Rondo is not a real option

I’ve dissected Rondo’s coverage on LeBron at length before and the ESPN Stats & Information group found similar results: there’s no evidence that Rondo can handle LeBron outside of a one-possession cameo.

Keeping in mind that Pierce held LeBron to 75 points per 100 possessions, what would you guess LeBron’s efficiency against Rondo was this season? Answer: 135, or just about twice as lethal as when Pierce was his primary defender. Stats & Info found that LeBron shot 60 percent on his field goals against Rondo, which also includes some and-1 opportunities when Rondo couldn’t match LeBron’s strength inside.

We remember the inspiring performance from Rondo in the third game against LeBron not because it was entirely successful, but because it was theatrical. The 170-pound point guard got under the skin of a player the size of Karl Malone. Rondo was invading Miami’s huddles and getting the Boston crowd on their feet. However, the Celtics aren’t interested in fairy tales, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers would be wise to keep Rondo away from that assignment.

3. If the Celtics send help, LeBron makes them pay

As I said earlier, guarding LeBron is a team effort, not an individual one. But the scouting report tells us LeBron picked apart the Celtics' defense when they sent a double-team or a help defender. LeBron is so difficult to defend because of his passing skills and radar-like awareness. Unlike other scorers such as Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, LeBron can pass out of a double-team with precision and the Celtics have been burned in these scenarios this season.

When the Celtics provided help defense on LeBron, the Heat’s efficiency improved compared to when Boston played him straight up. As a team, the Heat scored 86 points per 100 possessions against one-on-one defense but improved to 92 points per 100 possessions when the Celtics sent the extra defender.

Why the jump? When the Celtics load up on LeBron, he hits his teammates in better positions to score, thereby relieving these players of the pressure of having to create their own shots. As a result, the Heat’s turnover rates drop dramatically from 16 percent to 11 percent, while the team’s field-goal percentage rose slightly. What’s most interesting is that LeBron’s individual numbers suffered when the Celtics sent help defenders, but the Heat as a whole benefited from Boston’s strategy.

In the end, the onus will be on Pierce. James has the rare ability to thwart double-teams and pick apart defenses the moment they spread themselves thin. Of course, things could change. James could buckle under the pressure, hijack the offense and play hero-ball at critical moments, which would completely defeat the purpose of joining Wade and Bosh in Miami.

Facilitating the Heat’s offense may not be the most glorifying route for LeBron, but against the Celtics, it may be the most effective one. If LeBron wants to finally beat Boston, the truth is that he can’t do it all by himself.

Heat, C's set aside differences for a night

February, 20, 2011
2/20/11
11:30
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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LeBron James
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
A rivalry is brewing between Miami and Boston, but they'll be on the same side Sunday, like it or not.

LOS ANGELES -- For one night, at least, LeBron James is willing to forgive Rajon Rondo for that pesky little peek into the Miami Heat's huddle during last Sunday's game in Boston.

And Celtics forward Kevin Garnett won't carry a grudge from that running forearm shiver that Dwyane Wade delivered his way in the lane on that flagrant foul last week. Gone, too -- at least momentarily -- is the bitterness, intensity and rage that have come to define what so far has been a one-sided rivalry between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.

Why? Because tonight at the Staples Center, the two top teams in the Eastern Conference have no choice but to unite for a common cause as East teammates in the All-Star Game.

James, Wade and Chris Bosh join Garnett, Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in the goal of helping the East team knock off Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and the West squad for midseason bragging rights. And for now, that task is bigger than any level of beef between the Heat and Celtics.

“Right now, we come down here as allies,” Pierce said of setting aside any grudges with the Heat. “Maybe we'll leave as enemies. But now we're allies. And it's all about having fun.”

Making that transition from trying to frustrate one another just a week ago to fraternizing this week in Los Angeles isn't as simple as flipping an emotional switch. Especially when there's been so much angst between these adversaries.

The Celtics (40-14) and Heat (41-15) are essentially tied atop the East, separated by mere percentage points in the standings. But James, Wade and Bosh have failed to beat Boston in three tries this season, with the final regular-season matchup set for April 10 in Miami.

Because of everything that's happened -- on the court and off it -- between these teams over the course of the season, it should come as no surprise that players from both sides can't quite agree on how easy it will be to set aside their differences for 48 minutes Sunday night.

“No, it's not that easy,” said James, whose struggles against the Celtics date to last season, when his Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated by Boston in the second round of the playoffs. “But we understand this is something different. We will be rivals once again Sunday night, when we all leave and go back to wherever the teams take each other. But for right now, we're trying to win for one another. It's East versus West at this point, and we understand that.”

But that level of understanding hasn't been taken for granted.

Not only are the Heat's top stars playing alongside the core group of Celtics, they're also playing Sunday for Boston coach Doc Rivers, who finds humor in the All-Star irony. Rivers said he monitored the room closely when the East team held meetings over the weekend to prepare for the game.

The Heat and Celtics have a combined seven players on the East roster, with Joe Johnson and Al Horford representing the Atlanta Hawks. Orlando's Dwight Howard, Chicago's Derrick Rose and New York's Amare Stoudemire round out the 12-man roster.

“I'm going to talk trash before the game,” Rivers joked of the Celtics' strength in numbers. “It's funny. We just had our big meeting, and guys were pretty good. You could see there were some guys -- because I'm an observer canvassing the room -- who sat together. You could see some who kind of sat by themselves. The guy I felt sorry for is Dwight. He didn't have a teammate. Everybody else has a teammate they can talk to. Dwight's all by himself, so I just sat by him.”

Rivers said his coaching strategy might include playing the four Celtics together and rotating in other players. He also joked that he might give the player closest to free agency the chance to audition alongside the Celtics' lineup. That player just happens to be Howard, who can become a free agent after next season. But James said he wouldn't mind filling in at power forward with that Celtics' unit.

It was only a week ago when Bosh was getting an earful of Garnett's ranting wrath in TD Garden. Now, it's almost like those words were never exchanged. Almost.

“You don't want to be on edge all the time,” Bosh said. “You want to have some time to relax. You don't want to feel like you're in competition with somebody every time you see them, especially when it's supposed to be a break. I think everybody takes that to heart.”

Yes, even Garnett.

“I don't like the word 'fraternizing' and I don't like the word 'fronting,'” Garnett said of the notion that players would pretend to be friendly for a few days. “You tend to be a little more relaxed when you come out here. I've been doing this now for what, 14, 15 years. So yeah, absolutely. You know what this weekend is about. Competing is one thing. Socializing and being friends is another. I know how to separate the two. But my demeanor on the court is what it is.”

Wade and Garnett seemed to be far removed from their flagrant exchange during last Sunday's game. Wade's forearm jolt to Garnett was seen by some as retaliation for a hard screen Garnett set on Heat forward Mike Miller moments earlier. Miller has twice been tested for a concussion in recent days.

But bygones seem to be bygones. Wade and Garnett sat beside each other during Saturday night's All-Star skills competitions. Wade and his young son, Zaire, playfully chided Garnett when Heat forward James Jones defeated Allen and Pierce for the 3-point shootout title.

So it is possible for the Heat and Celtics to have compassion for one another. At least for a little while.

“This is basketball,” Wade said. “It's not like we're fighting or boxing. We're not going against each other right now. When we get back to the season, yeah. When we play Boston, they want to beat us and we want to beat them. But right now, we both want to beat the Western Conference and have a memorable All-Star Weekend for ourselves and our families."

Heat vs. Celtics: A contrast of wings

February, 12, 2011
2/12/11
4:56
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Heat-Celtics wings
Rocky Widner/Isaac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images
Ray Allen and Paul Pierce win by feeding off each other. Do LeBron James and Dwyane Wade need to?

Celtics vs. Heat.

Old guard vs. new guard.

As the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Celtics have ground to protect against Miami. Adding fuel to the fire, the Celtics have a moniker to preserve. The trio in Boston were the original bearers of the Big Three nickname when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce four seasons ago. But now in their mid-30s, they are the elder statesmen of the East.

Then there’s Miami, nipping at Boston’s heels. Sure, the Heat will enter Sunday’s matchup with a half-game lead atop the Eastern Conference standings, but they still have plenty to prove as they’re 0-2 against the C’s. As the Heat’s Big Three enter their prime, they hope to supplant Boston’s conference supremacy for good.

But the most interesting dynamic between these teams won't be found in nicknames, title belts or records -- but on the wings. Namely, the contrast between Boston’s tandem of Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, and Miami’s tandem of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Again, it’s the interplay of old guard vs. new guard.

Say you’re picking teams and you have to choose between the two wing duos. There are countless factors to consider when assembling your team, but if you value the virtues of order and synergy, you may anchor your unit with Allen and Pierce. With them, there’s no role confusion, no power struggle nor pitfalls that come with experimentation. The duo offers a pure, balanced combination of a shooting guard and a small forward bolstered with a shared possession total in the thousands.

And that complementary bond is a valuable commodity in basketball. After all, scorers are a spot-up shooter’s best friend. Pierce’s multifaceted scoring attack draws the attention of help defenders on the perimeter. And Allen is perhaps the best spot-up shooter ever to grace the court, though we didn’t need Thursday’s record-breaking performance to tell us that. Synergy Sports Technology informs us that Allen has nailed 51 of his 101 spot-up jumpers this season, which gives him a mind-boggling 75 percent effective field goal percentage on those shots.

Leaving Allen to help on Pierce is a losing gamble, but one that defenses often can’t resist. And just like any symbiotic relationship, spot-up shooters are a scorer’s best friend as well. Pierce possesses that crafty inside-out game that draws the envy of every YMCA over-the-hill regular. But without the threat of a lurking 3-point shooter, Pierce would be forced to constantly circumvent help defenders. Furthermore, as Allen runs around a barrage of off-ball screens, Pierce can slip through the cracks and free himself for an easy bucket.

But while Allen and Pierce have perfected our ideal complementary relationship between a 2 and a 3, Wade and James don’t ascribe to that model. And they’re talented enough that they don’t need to.

When the Heat struggled out of the gate to a 9-8 record, many critics pointed to the lack of synergy between Wade and James. They are too similar to coexist, the gallery posited. Is this true?

When we look at Synergy, we find that James and Wade are nearly identical in their scoring attacks. For James, 24.4 percent of his plays originate from the pick-and-roll, his most common play type. Wade? 24.8 percent. Wade’s second-most popular play type is in transition, which accounts for 18.8 percent of his plays. James? 19.7 percent. Post-ups? 5.9 percent for Wade and 6.1 percent for James. You get the idea; their scoring palettes are virtually indistinguishable.

But this similarity hasn’t plagued the Heat’s offense by any stretch. Whereas Pierce and Allen succeed by integrating their dissimilar scoring attacks like puzzle pieces, the Heat’s wings thrive without the supposedly vital interdependence. The Heat score 114.7 points per 100 possessions when James and Wade play on the court together, which stands above the Celtics’ 112.5 points per 100 possessions mark with Pierce and Allen this season.

So early-season critics were absolutely justified in calling Wade and James similar, but not to the extent that it was a fatal flaw. That was a knee-jerk reaction. No, Wade and James don’t feed off each other quite like the rival duo they’ll face Sunday, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Allen and Pierce appeal to our teamwork sensibilities and follow the traditional model of wing play. But through the Heat’s success, James and Wade are breaking the mold set by their predecessors.

As Wade and James barrel through opponents these days, we’re learning that a symbiotic relationship is not as critical as we may have thought. In their primes, Wade and James are creating a new brand of winning basketball -- their own.

Heat respond to Pierce's tweet jab

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
4:23
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- The war of words between the Heat and the Celtics didn't end after Boston's 112-107 victory Thursday night in Miami.

Heat forward Udonis Haslem questioned Paul Pierce's toughness after Friday's practice when he was told that Pierce apparently used his Twitter account to mock LeBron James and the Heat. Moments after the Celtics defeated the Heat for the second time this season, Pierce apparently rubbed in the victory in 140 characters or less.

“It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to south beach,” was the message that appeared on Pierce's twitter feed. “(N)ow on to Memphis.” The message was a loose reference to James’ July 8 announcement in free agency that he would be “taking my talents to South Beach” to sign with Miami.

Asked if he had a response to Pierce's tweet, Haslem responded with a question of his own.

“Paul who?” Haslem shot back. “Man, ain't nobody paying them dudes no attention, man. You know what studio gangster is? Look up that, look up the definition of studio gangster. I'm here to play basketball. First of all, I don't tweet. So I wouldn't know what he tweeted if you guys didn't tell me.”

Having lost two consecutive games, and three of their last four, the Heat are trying to recover from their first stretch of adversity early in the season. Players said Friday that they don't expect other teams in the league or fans who root against the Heat to have any sympathy when they struggle.

The process of re-signing Dwyane Wade and luring James and Chris Bosh to Miami made the Heat arguably the most polarizing team in the league. Haslem and Wade, Miami's co-captains, acknowledged Friday that opponents seem to relish the opportunity to beat the Heat more than other teams this season.

“I'm not surprised at all,” Wade said. “That's a part of it. We understand that. We understand that because of what happened with the players we have on this team. Of course people are smiling, and they're feeling good about our 5-4 start, as they should be. That's the case (with) Heat haters … and that's fine. We just have to stick together as a team.”

The Heat, who are 1-4 this season against teams with winning records, continue their six-game home stand against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.

Celtics, Heat reverse course Wednesday

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
11:01
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
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One night after the Boston Celtics handed the Miami Heat and LeBron James their first loss, Boston falls to James’ old team 95-87 in Cleveland. The Celtics' Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for just 34 points on 12-for-33 (36.4 percent) shooting, as they are unable to match their 49-point, 15-for-31 (48.4 percent) performance from last night.

The Heat traveled down to Philadelphia for their second game of the season and beat the 76ers 97-87 to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2007-08. Only six teams had started a season with two consecutive losses before going on to win the championship, and none since the Bulls in the 1990-91 season.

The trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was much more effective Wednesday night, combining for 61 points and outscoring the 76ers on the floor by five points in the 25 minutes they played together.

Tuesday night the Heat had trouble finding consistency on catch-and-shoot jump-shots, connecting on just 27 percent of their attempts when spotting up against the Celtics. On Wednesday, Miami was able to capitalize when the 76ers' defense collapsed on the interior, going 11-for-21 (54 percent) on spot-up jumpers, including 7-for-13 on contested shots.

Miami ice: Celtics cool off Heat's Big 3

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
12:09
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
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The Boston Celtics raced out to a 45-30 halftime lead and held off a late Miami Heat rally to win their fourth straight season opener, the longest active win streak in season-opening games.

Miami scored just nine points in the first quarter, its fewest in any quarter since March 15, 2009 at Philadelphia and their fewest in the first quarter since March 23, 2007 at Indiana. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade committed all six of the Heat’s turnovers in the opening quarter as the duo shot a combined 2-for-11 (18.2 percent) from the floor.

James finished with a game-high 31 points and eight turnovers. LeBron was responsible for 49 percent of the Heat’s output (39 of 80 points), and had one more field goal (10) than the four other starters combined (9).

What does this loss mean for the Heat? Over the last 20 years, only three teams have gone on to win the NBA title after losing their first game. The last NBA Champion to lose the first game of the season in which they won a title was the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons.

Ray Allen led the Celtics with 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc, while Paul Pierce finished with 19 points, snapping his streak of 11 straight season-openers with at least 20 points, which was the second-longest all-time. Rajon Rondo scored only four points but chipped in with 17 assists, tying Oscar Robertson for the third-most in NBA history in a season opener.

The Heat’s Big Three were on the floor together for 29 minutes but the trio was actually outscored by eight points and turned the ball over 10 times when playing at the same time. In the 19 minutes Wade, Bosh and James were not all on the floor together, the Heat performed better, with a higher field goal percentage while matching the Celtics on the scoreboard.

Celts get first crack at Heat, as they should

October, 25, 2010
10/25/10
5:58
PM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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LeBron James
Jim Rogash/Getty Images Sport
Double-teaming LeBron James will present more complications than it used to.

WALTHAM, Mass. – They’re trying to sell it, and are even making a good sound case. But nobody is buying it, especially the coach.

As they finished up their preparations for Tuesday’s mega-season opener with the Heat, many Celtics were quick to shrug off all hype regarding the start of the season. A veteran-laden team with a stockpile of championship rings, the Celtics are used to the eight-month grind. And they're presenting a compelling case that they’re unaffected by the attention.

It’s just the first Tuesday of the regular season, they say.

“It means more to the media and the fans than to us,” Paul Pierce said.

“The media has done a good job with the marketing,” Shaquille O’Neal said. “There’s talk of losing money. Not on Tuesday night. We ain’t losing money, so thanks for that.”

So it's just media, marketing and some overexuberant fans who are manufacturing the hysteria?

“Let’s just be honest,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Everybody is excited about it. Our guys try to downplay it until you walk through the locker room and you can hear them talking about it. And the film is on all day watching Miami.”

That’s what we thought. Say what they will, the Celtics are quite interested in getting the first crack at Team John Dillinger, as LeBron James branded his new squad over the summer. So is the rest of the NBA, which likely won’t just be watching from a fan perspective but also trying to get an early scouting report on how to handle the new Heat.

No team in the league has been more impressive defensively over the past three years than the Celtics. For that matter, no team has done a more thorough job of keeping James and Dwyane Wade relatively in check.

Wade and James have put up some huge numbers -- even in the playoffs -- against the Celtics. James had a 45-point Game 7 in 2008. Last season, Wade had a high-scoring playoff series against the Celtics, tallying 46 points in Game 4.

But Boston has routinely bested them, employing an array of effective game plans. Sometimes the Celtics have allowed the scorers to get their points only to lock them down in the half court during crunch time. Other times they’ve forced Wade and James to their weak spots on the floor and invited them to take low-percentage shots under pressure.

A few daggers aside, the Celtics' blueprint has worked nearly flawlessly in recent years. Boston beat both Miami and Cleveland last season in the playoffs. In fact, no team has beaten James more in the past three seasons than the Celtics, effectively neutralizing his greatness twice in the playoffs.

So if any team can find a formula to do it to both James and Wade at the same time, it just might be the Celtics. And so it is quite appropriate they get the first shot at the Heat. Coaches and players across the NBA will be taking notes.

“It doesn’t matter what they score, I don’t care,” Rivers said. “I would like them to score under 10, that would be terrific. But if they both score over 30 and we win, I’m going to feel very good about that game.

“We’re going to trust our principles; that is who we are. We’ve been asked over the last few years if we have this 'Dwyane Wade defense' or this 'LeBron defense' and we laughed. We never changed our defense. We play our defense. We try to get people off their spot. We try to get them to take the shots we want. If they make those shots, we’re fine with it.”

That is a confident response from a systematic defensive team. But can that system withstand what O’Neal is already calling a “legendary backcourt” of James and Wade, while at the same time also accounting for Chris Bosh?

The Heat plans for the answer to be no. That was the motivation behind creating a superteam that was unguardable even by the best in the business.

The Celtics – and other quality high-end defensive teams like the Lakers and Magic – hope the answer will be yes. After all, there is only one ball. By using sound defensive techniques and communication, defenses can put those strategies to work against five All-Stars at once. "Good pitching beats good hitting" and similar metaphors have often prevailed in playoff basketball.

Pierce tried to explain this concept. By tilting the defense to where the ball is -- “loading,” as Boston calls it -- and getting help from active and intelligent teammates, defending the Heat should be like guarding any other team with a star or two. But the more Pierce talked, the more you could tell he knows this challenge is different.

“It is hard to defend LeBron one-on-one so it is always important for five guys to be aware of where he is,” Pierce said, returning to a standard tactic.

But then he had to elaborate.

“The bad thing about it is they have Dwyane Wade on the other side now. We all have to keep our antennae up.”

Then Pierce kept going.

“Along with Chris Bosh. We have to be very aware of where these guys are on the court at all times. It’s going to be a challenge.”

That's even more true Tuesday because the Celtics, like the rest of the league, have roughly three minutes of video to consult of Wade, James and Bosh playing together. James and his teammates have often pointed out that they’re behind because of injuries -- but opponents are behind trying to prepare for them, as well.

All of which adds even more spice and intrigue to the opener.

“I would have liked to have seen them a couple times,” Rivers said.

“We all, especially coaches, are a creature of film. That three-minute flip clip is not very good to break down. You’ve got to guess in a lot of ways. This is where we think Wade would be, but he could be on the other side of the floor.”

Nothing is settled in October -- or in November, when the teams meet again in Miami two weeks from now. While the Heat will hardly have their systems running on full speed, the Celtics will not be whole. Delonte West, a defensive specialist signed over the summer because of his rugged style and knowledge of James, will not play in either game because of a league suspension. And Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics center, continues to rehab his right knee and isn't expected back in action for at least three months.

So both teams are quick to point out that few conclusions will be reached Tuesday. But don’t be fooled -- they both care a lot about what happens on day one.

“Once LeBron took his talents to South Beach, I think everyone got excited,” Rivers said. “They’ve formed a superteam. I’ve said it a hundred times, I’d rather kindle the fire than start one.”

Wednesday Hotness

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
3:41
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • President Barack Obama appeared at a Democratic Party fundraiser at Alonzo Mourning's house in Miami on Monday night. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were on hand. "It was a cool experience, just to get to meet the President because I've never met the President before ... He's a very, very good speaker. I knew he was a good speaker just from watching TV, but it's something about it being in person," Bosh said of meeting POTUS.
  • Surya Fernandez of AOL Fanhouse writes that the concern with the Heat's mounting injuries isn't that they'll linger into the regular season so much as they keep a completely retooled roster from learning how to play together.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel on how the Heat might confront some of the better point guards in the East: "I appreciate that the Magic, with Jameer Nelson, and the Celtics, with Rondo, will stand as the greatest challenge when it comes to stopping opposing point guards, and that a defensive point guard on the court would help. The problem is neither Arroyo nor Chalmers carry such a resume. So it could come down to James drawing such an assignment, anyway."
  • Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm on LeBron James' propensity to draw fouls when he posts up: "James draws free throws 25 percent of the time he’s in the block. Among qualifying centers who spent at least 50 possessions down there last year? James was second behind Howard."
  • Zach Lowe of The Point Forward on the most profound adjustment Dwyane Wade will have to make this season: "... Wade will have to get used to playing off the ball. This, I think, is what people talk about when they wonder how the three stars will mesh. Wade (and, to a lesser extent, James) will have to work more as a cutter, screener and pick-and-pop option. He’s one of the three or four most skilled players in the world, so he should be able to pull it off. But questions about his ability to hit long jumpers are fair."
  • A reminder just how potent football is in the state of Florida. Both the Heat and Dolphins have radio deals with Clear Channel. The terms of the Heat's deal stipulate that they're entitled to any programming opportunities -- i.e. a long post-game show -- offered to other teams served by Clear Channel. The Sun-Sentinel reports that the Heat, who now have the market presence to produce more programming, have filed suit against Clear Channel to have the same privileges afforded the Fins.
  • Paul Pierce on WEEI Radio in Boston on the Heat: "As far as a prediction, I don’t know how many games they’re going to win and I don’t know how many titles they’re going to win. But I can tell you one thing: They’re going to be a pretty good team." (Hat tip: Sports Radio Interviews)
  • We're No. 3?

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dwyane Wade
PTS AST STL MIN
23.2 5.5 1.0 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Bosh 8.2
AssistsD. Wade 5.5
StealsM. Chalmers 1.7
BlocksH. Whiteside 0.8