MIAMI - Late in the second half, Miami Heat forward
LeBron James took off on a fast break, barreling toward the basket.
Heat guard Ray Allen drifted to the three-point line the corner.
of Allen spotting up for a wide open three-pointer, Boston Celtics
forward Paul Pierce and center Kevin Garnett broke down defensively,
both players hedging to cover Allen in the corner.
After all, of
the 798 three-pointers Allen made as a Celtic in the previous five
seasons, how many times did Pierce and Garnett watch him knock one down
from the corner? But the Celtics also knows what happens when James has
an unimpeded lane to the basket. James threw down one his monstrous
two-handed dunks, leaving Garnett and Pierce to blame each other.
is the kind of play Heat opponents will see often this year, with an
alternative ending just as realistic: James passing to Allen for a
In the season opener for both teams, on the night
the Heat received their 2011-12 championship rings and raised a
championship banner, Miami defeated Boston 120-107. Amid the many
storylines - Dwyane Wade's surprisingly good game coming off knee
surgery with 29 points, Pierce's 25 points, five rebounds, five assists,
Rajon Rondo's quiet double-double (20 points, 13 assists), Chris Bosh's
ever-steady play (19 points, 10 rebounds) the playoff-like atmosphere,
the obvious dislike the two teams have for each other (won't this make
another great playoff seasons in May?) - two stood above the others.
pursuit of his second title began the way he finished last season -best
player on the court - but the game ended with James watching most of
the fourth quarter, including the final seconds in the locker room with
leg cramps. Still, he finished 26 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and
two assists in 29 minutes.
Allen, who left the Celtics and signed
with the Heat as a free agent in July, had been cast as a traitor by the
Celtics for going to Boston's bitter rival. And he provided a strong
reminder of what the Celtics are missing shortly after entering the game
in the first quarter, making his first three-point attempt.
First, James' game. Winning the championship in June was a moment was a goal. Receiving the ring was another.
"It was a dream of mine," James said. "I put a lot of hard work into it. ... It will be a night that we won't forget."
almost had a double-double in points and rebounds in the first half (16
and nine). Again, he dominated. His dominative could have been more
impressive had he played more than three minutes in the fourth quarter.
cramps developed in both legs - first the right hamstring in the third
quarter, then the left in the fourth. James said he's fine.
feeling alright. I will be alright," he said. "Once you start cramping,
there is nothing you can do about it. It's not an all-the-time thing so I
am not too worried about it."
But it's happened before to James,
but it's not quite yet a trend or a reason for concern. In Game 4 of
last season's NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, James left
the game with cramps in the fourth quarter, returned and then missed the
final 55 seconds because of pain.
Unlike the Finals, Spoelstra had no intention of bringing of putting James back in if he wasn't ready. The risk isn't worth it.
"There was no point in forcing it. ... Game 1 is not the time to pull what we did during the Finals," Spoelstra said.
is reason for both concern and assurance for the Heat. When James left
the game with 9:01 left in the fourth quarter, Miami had a 100-85 lead.
With 2:09 to play, Miami led just 111-107. Bosh had seven consecutive
points and three rebounds in the next 78 seconds, securing the victory.
"The Celtics never go away. They don't," Spoelstra said. "So we had to find a way to grind it without LeBron."
much easier to grind without James with Allen on the Heat's roster, and
it's much more difficult for the Celtics to grind without Allen on the
"I was so happy every time he hit a shot because it was not against us, and it was not against me," Wade said.
was a big game for Allen and the Celtics even though both sides tried
to downplay as tip-off neared. But there's no doubt the Celtics felt
betrayed by Allen's decision, and Allen was stung by their reaction.
Allen maintained he has no animosity toward anyone on the Celtics, and
when he checked in for the first time, he went over to the Celtics bench
to shake hands with players, coaches and staff.
"I wanted to say what's up to everybody on that side," Allen said.
He went to Garnett, who ignored Allen. So Allen simply tapped Garnett on the shoulder - a cold shoulder at that.
is a true professional," James said. "He let his game do the talking. ...
It is a gift for us to have a Hall of Famer coming off the bench. ... He
is a great guy. He will always be that type of guy. He did what he
wanted to do for his career. That shouldn't change a friendship."
Allen wasn't surprised by Garnett's reaction but not because he thinks Garnett is rude.
guys know KG. I'll ask you. Did you expect him to react?" Allen said.
"I take anything from it. Kevin's an intense competitor. On the bench,
he's in a different world. He's in a different zone. In the five years I
played with him, you just have to respect that."
Allen said the two exchanged low-key fist bumps later in the game.
of how they feel, I have nothing but great things and warm sentiments
going in their direction," Allen said. "The one thing I have learned
being in the NBA is guys make decisions for so many different reasons
and sitting in that seat, you never can tell what a guy is dealing with.
... They could be angry at me, but I am just happy that I had an
opportunity to come back out, and I am able to help this team win."