Miami looked ready to defend its championship during a 120-107 opening night win against the visiting Celtics on Tuesday.
The recently acquired Leandro Barbosa made his Celtic debut by scoring all 16 of his points (6-of-8 shooting) in the fourth to pull Boston within four with 2:09 left -- a run that affirmed LeBron's dominance, since it took place while he was in the locker room receiving treatment for his cramping. The Celtics were unable to establish Kevin Garnett (Nine points, five turnovers in 32 minutes) down low as they failed to exploit their size advantage in the middle. As the game progressed, Boston chose to go small and try and matchup with fast-paced Miami.
The evening began with James receiving his first championship ring from NBA Commissioner David Stern and Miami owner Micky Arison. The extended ceremony didn't distract James in the least as he and his teammates shot 56.7 percent through the first three quarters. Miami instantly developed the kind of balance it will be attempt to sustain all year long -- 29 points from Dwyane Wade, 19 each for Chris Bosh (10 rebounds) and Ray Allen, 11 assists for Mario Chalmers and a highly promising 10 points from Rashard Lewis as he attempts to recover from years of injury.
All of these strengths manifested around James, who at 27, is in his prime in terms of understanding, athleticism and confidence. As long as he stays hydrated, he looks like the runaway favorite to win his fourth MVP in five years.
Boston coach Doc Rivers and a few teammates greeted Allen more warmly, but none of it seemed to have any impact one way or the other. Allen scored a typical 19 points on 7 shots, including two 3-pointers in 31 minutes. He outperformed his replacement in Boston, Jason Terry, who went 2 of 7 (0 of 3 beyond the arc) in 25 minutes.
Allen's first attempt for Miami was a corner three that he drilled it successfully in front of his new team's bench. His new fans in Miami derided the Celtics by chanting, "We got Ray!'' If the ball moves all season as fluidly as it did on opening night, then Allen will have no trouble swishing open shots in the company of so much talent.
The Celtics were relying on five players who were not involved in Boston's conference final loss to Miami last season, and their uncertainty was most noticeable at the defensive end. The Celtics weren't able to apply any pressure to Miami -- Wade was the only Heat player with more than one turnover.