BOSTON, October 27 – The Miami Heat and their vaunted "Big Three" were the hottest ticket in town, but they started off cold and even once LeBron James warmed up they couldn't stop the Boston Celtics.In the first game of the NBA season, the league’s latest star-studded team managed just nine points in the first quarter and fell 88-80 to the veteran Celtics.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen – Boston’s own "Big Three" who showed in 2007-08 that a trio of superstars could mesh into a championship team – showed Miami’s star trio of James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade how it’s done.
Before the game James said that Celtics trio was a model of what he, Bosh and Wade hoped to achieve after coming together in Miami in a seismic free agent shift.
"They sacrificed everything. They didn’t worry about points or rebounds, anything individual," James said before the contest. "They just went out to compete as a team. I don’t think I have to score a lot for us to be in the game, because we have a lot of options."
James scored 21 of his 31 points in the second half in his first time back at the new Boston Garden since the Celtics eliminated his Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last season.
That second playoff loss in three years helped convince the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player to depart Cleveland.
"I’m excited about this new start. I’m excited about this season. I’m excited about this team and this franchise," James said. "I’m excited to get it going in a city where (I’ve) struggled."
Despite the Celtics’ status as reigning conference champs, it was the Heat – and James, Bosh and Wade in particular – attracting the big media contingent and driving up the price of game tickets into five figures on resale sites on the internet.
Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said some 500 journalists had received credentials for the contest, four times the normal number.
"You don’t usually see this many cameras unless you’re in the finals," Wade commented after a morning shoot-around. "And it’s the first game of the season."
Wade, Bosh and James played together just three minutes during the pre-season before Wade strained his right hamstring in the October 5 exhibition opener. He returned to practice on Saturday.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted that the three stars had played together plenty – at the 2006 world championships and again at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where they helped the United States win gold.
"I think it will be easy with these guys," he said. "It’s not their first rodeo."
Miami fans have wasted no time in adopting James, but the resentment is still simmering back in Cleveland, where a radio host hired a witch doctor to try to hex James and his new team.
The standing-room only crowd in Boston was no more affectionate – chanting "Over-rated!" and booing every time James touched the ball.
Boston led by as many as 19 points and by 63-57 at halftime. James’s 15 points in the third-quarter saw that lead dwindle to 63-57, and the Heat closed within three points with less than two minutes remaining.
The Celtics responded by scoring the final five points.
"It was fun," Boston guard Rajon Rondo said.