BOSTON - Forget about destiny and dynasty and all the grandiose words that have been attached to the Miami Heat in the days leading up to the most anticipated season opener in recent memory.
The debut of the new Miami Heat was a definitive dud, unless of course you were a Boston Celtics fan. As a standing-room-only crowd at TD Garden chanted "overrated" at the Heat superstars, a confident Celtics team ruined the Heat's coming-out party with an 88-80 victory last night.
The story line of this game was supposed to be LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the three All-Stars who decided to join forces and create a über team in Miami this year. Instead it was Paul Pierce, who scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, and Ray Allen, who led the Celtics with 20.
"I think we are the team to beat in the East," Udonis Haslem said as he walked off the court.
James did have one heck of a game, which was almost enough to pull the Heat back into a game in which it was down by 19 in the first half. James, who finished with a game-high 31 points and shot 10-for-21, pulled the Heat within three points with a little more than a minute left with a driving layup.
His Big Three partners, however, struggled to find their places on the floor. Bosh finished with just eight points and eight rebounds and Wade scored 13 points and shot 4-for-16. Wade looked particularly lost in the first half as he failed to score at all in the first quarter.
"I'm sorry if everyone thought we were going to go 82-0," Wade said afterward. "It just isn't happening,"
It really wasn't happening for the Heat in the first half. Despite having three players in their starting lineup who averaged more than 24 points a game last season, the Heat produced just nine points in the first quarter and 30 in the first half. Both were lower than any first quarter or half that the Heat put together last year, before Bosh and James decided to join Wade.
Boston, by contrast, looked like a team that was a little ticked off that their season opener had been co-opted by the Heat, that all anyone was talking about was how it was Miami's coming-out party. The Celtics, after all, had come within one game of an NBA title last season, losing in seven games to the Lakers in Los Angeles. They also eliminated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"I don't know if they have the whole chemistry thing down, but they will," Kevin Garnett said. "We went through some growing pains when we were first together."
Bosh said before the game that he saw the Celtics as a role model, given that they were able to win an NBA title three years ago with a group of new players. He said the Heat's goal is to do the same thing.
Said Bosh: "We didn't do this just to be regular guys and be a regular team. We wanted to be one of the great teams to ever play this game."
It marked the second time in less than six months that James walked off the parquet court disappointed. It was the Celtics who ended his season last year when Boston defeated the Cavaliers in six games in the conference semifinals.