Dwyane Wade scored 29, Lebron James added 27, and Ray Allen poured in 19 and the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics 120-107 on opening night of the 2012-2013 NBA season. Paul Pierce scored 23 to lead Boston, who also received 20 points and 13 assists from Rajon Rondo and 15 points and 11 rebounds from Brandon Bass. After trailing by double digits for much of the night the Celtics made a game of it in the fourth quarter thanks to 16 quick points by Leandro Barbossa, but Chris Bosh scored four straight to push the lead back up to eight with just over one minute remaining. The Celtics looked good on offense, shooting 52 percent, but the defense was mysteriously absent for most of the night.
Turning Point I
The Celtics were down by just four late in the second quarter when Kevin Garnett sent James' shot back at him with authority. Paul Pierce picked it up and raced the other way for what looked like a transition layup. But Pierce lost the handle on the way to the hoop and Bass was called for a phantom loose ball foul on Allen, who's free throws brought it back up to six. On the next Celtics possession Chris Bosh threw Jeff Green to the ground. This time head official Monty McCutchen kept his whistle in his pocket, and James got a transition dunk on the other end. The Celtics could easily have been down by eight going into half anyway given their terrible defensive play, but these two mysterious calls really changed the feel of the game.
Turning Point II
The Celtics had been running with the Heat in the first half. They tried to slow things down entering the third quarter. It didn't work. Boston trying to play in the half court more resulted in an excessive number of turnovers and their exceptionally bad half court D gave Miami way too many open shots. Miami shot 68 percent in quarter and Miami turned an eight point half time advantage into a 93-76 lead entering the final frame. Lebron hit a wide open three on Miami's first possession and Boston didn't get it to single digits again until the fourth quarter.
Turning Point III
The Celtics opened the final frame with Rajon Rondo picking up Lebron James with full court pressure. The Celtics looked completely disinterested on the defensive end all night, but Rondo's pressure got them at least putting in some effort. As a result the C's finally put some stops together and Leandro Barbosa exploded off the bench for 9 quick points. With James in the locker room with leg cramps the Celtics kept getting stops and a Courtney Lee transition jumper after forcing a Wade miss made it a four point game with just over two minutes to play. Unfortunately every time the Celtics really needed a stop on Tuesday night their defense let them down. Just needing one more stop and conversion to make it a one possession game Chris Bosh sealed Kevin Garnett away from the basket, took a nice feed from Mario Chalmers, and dropped in an easy layup. Every time the C's really needed a stop they gave up a ridiculously easy shot. That is not Celtic basketball.
Where is the Defense?
The Heat scored 31 points in each of the first three quarters. They had 93 points before the fourth quarter even started. Some of this was good Heat offense. Some it was lucky shots (Ray Allen banked in a 3). Some of it was accidental offense – it seemed like every time the C's knocked the ball away Miami still came up with it and converted. But most of it was just awful Boston defense. The C's are a defense first team. That is how they define themselves, and they let Miami score 120 points on 54.4 percent shooting. In fact, Miami was up around 57 percent for much of the night. Certainly some of it was due to Boston's new players not quite being fully adjusted to Boston's defensive schemes, but a lot of it seemed like lack of effort on the defensive end. There just wasn't any defensive intensity from Boston until the final quarter. Their offense is better this year, but they cannot win when they play so terribly on the defensive end.
Mixed Bag for New C's
Barbosa exploded off the bench for Boston, and his 16 points were really the only reason it was even close at all late. Courtney Lee battled foul trouble, but played very strong defense on Wade early and late when fouls didn't have him on the bench. However both Jeff Green and Jason Terry struggled in their first regular season game. Green finished with 3 points on 0-4 shooting. All four shots were shots that he normally makes, so it's understandable given that Tuesday was Green's first real game in over a year. However he also struggled on the defensive end, giving James way too many open looks. The C's are hoping that Green can D up Lebron. That is one of the reasons they made that trade to bring him to Boston. He wasn't good enough tonight. Terry meanwhile had a strong stretch in the second quarter where he scored all eight of his points, but he missed all three of his three point attempts and also committed three turnovers. The talent is there for Boston's supporting cast but they struggled tonight.
C's Will Be Able To Match Up
The depth is clearly there for Boston. With both Green and Terry struggling Barbosa came through with a big effort. The opposite will be true for plenty of nights going forward. Lee played excellent defense on Wade but the game really shifted when he got in foul trouble. Normally Avery Bradley will be there if Lee has to head for the bench. With Bradley still recovering from surgery the C's had to put Terry on Wade which is a mismatch. The C's don't really have a guy who can guard Lebron, but nobody does. The firepower is there. The depth is there. The speed is there. The Celtics actually ran with the Heat tonight. The defense has to get better, but that should happen once KG and Doc get a look at this film.
What it Means
This was Miami's night – everything went right for them. Every time the Celtics seemed to get a little big of momentum they'd knock the ball away from Miami and it would still turn into a Heat basket. The calls went Miami's way. The bounces went Miami's way. It was Miami's night. The Celtics made a game of it late, but the Heat were going to win tonight. The C's can match up, and it was very refreshing to see them out running with the Heat. The disturbing thing was the complete lack of Celtic defense. Not only was it just down right bad for most of the night, the Celtics really didn't seem to be trying. There were way too many possessions of just token D. Way too many uncontested layups. Way too many wide open threes. This should change, but it was still an unpleasant sight. The C's are changing who they are this year. They are going with a more up tempo offense with more speed and athleticism. However they cannot forget that defense is what made them successful. No team will win giving up 120 points. It just isn't possible. The Celtics have a little time to iron things out before their home opener on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, but no matter who they are playing 120 points cannot happen.
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