Commentary

Celtics' defense doesn't show

Kevin Garnett & Co. can't slow down Heat in losing season opener

Updated: October 31, 2012, 9:24 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

In-game daps from former teammates? Kevin Garnett could ignore that. Defensive woes that saw a rival opponent shoot 54.4 percent and hang 120 points on opening night? No way Garnett and his Boston Celtics teammates could turn a blind eye there.

After receiving their rings and sending a championship banner to the rafters, the Miami Heat held an offensive victory parade on the court at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami scored 31 points in each of the first three quarters Tuesday night before hanging on for a 120-107 triumph over the Celtics.

[+] EnlargeDwyane Wade
Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/Getty ImagesDwyane Wade and the Heat found the going easy in the Celtics' end.

Miami's outburst culminated in the third quarter when the Heat connected on 13 of 19 field goals (a ridiculous 68.4 percent) and stretched their lead to 17, preventing Boston from rallying back despite a fourth-quarter outburst of its own.

"Like I told y'all … we're a work in progress," Garnett said.

Even with a bunch of new faces, Boston's defensive struggles were staggering. The Heat averaged 125 points per 100 possessions Tuesday, the second-highest offensive rating by a team in a season opener in the past five seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. What's more, that's the most points per 100 possessions Miami has scored against the Celtics in the past 10 seasons, and the second-worst defensive efficiency by the Celtics since the start of the Big Three era.

"I just thought that was the story of the night: our defensive struggles," captain Paul Pierce said. "That's not who we are. The way we defended tonight -- we're not going to be a team that's going to give up 120 points. We gave up 30 points pretty much each and every quarter. We've got to establish our identity and who we are and what we're going to be.

"We're going to be a defensive team, we're going to stop teams from scoring, we're going to keep them out of transition, and we've got to be a team that has to show resistance and be the enforcer out there. And tonight we pretty much were on our heels all night."

Boston actually did a decent job of limiting fast-break opportunities and even cleaned up a rash of early turnovers. But maybe that makes Miami's success in the half-court offense all the more frustrating.

And the Celtics could live with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James pairing up for 54 points. What didn't sit well was Ray Allen (19) and Rashard Lewis (10) adding 29 off the bench.

"You can live with LeBron and Wade making jump shots, but the first play I think Ray was on the floor, we leave him by himself in the corner," Boston coach Doc Rivers said of the former Celtic. "You would think we would know better."

And that's what was so frustrating about Tuesday's effort for the Celtics. Their trademark defense disappeared and they made head-slapping mistakes. Players hedged too high on pick-and-rolls and couldn't recover, or even when help arrived in time, Miami was able to swing the ball to find an open man (and almost always knocked down the shot).

"That's not us," Jeff Green said. "That's not Celtics basketball."

The Celtics knew there would be growing pains with all the new faces on the team and acknowledged that playing last year's champion didn't make things easy the first time out.

But Boston also didn't want to make excuses for its terrible defensive play.

"We've got a lot of new guys trying to understand our philosophy defensively," Pierce said. "We had a lot of breakdowns. I thought we just didn't communicate well either. Our defense is all about communicating, talking. We didn't do a good job talking to each other on rotations and things of that nature, but we'll get it together.

"Tonight was a good measuring stick for us. We played against a team that's the best team in the NBA, they are the champs, and it was a good chance for us to see where we're at, and we've got a lot of work to do.

"Obviously it's Game 1, we're not going to be the same team we're going to be as the year goes on, and we understand it's a work in progress."

Echoed Brandon Bass: "We don't want to make any excuses. We just need to get better."

Given what we've come to expect from the Celtics' defense, it can't get much worse than it was Tuesday night.

ESPNBoston.com contributor Matt Porter provided information for this report.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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