The Boston Celtics aren’t kidding themselves thinking it was anything like a close contest in Miami against the Heat. Their defense gave up 120 points and allowed the NBA champions to shoot at 54.4% from the field, while Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo were busy burying old grievances.
Maybe Garnett actually thought that ignoring Ray Allen would rattle the ex-Celtics. Instead he drilled the first shot he took for the Heat, a trademark corner 3, left wide open. Allen shooting, the entire Miami Heat’s team shooting, was an ongoing source of frustration and pain for the Celtics all through the night.
Their fast break defense mostly did a good job against a team that’s extremely hard to stop in transition. But suddenly, the Heat’s half court offense was the thing that closed out the game. The Celtics were over zealous in guarding pick n’ rolls, and that was exploited time after time by quick passing from the Heat, finding an open man each and every time, mostly knocking those shots down.
Kevin Garnett wasn’t very talkative after the game. His little pride stunt in the beginning didn’t give him or his team the boost that he hoped for. So much of intensity. He finished with 9 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks, but also 5 turnovers. Slow on his coverage and too many times left alone and frustrated to handle blown assignments. He never got going or felt comfortable offensively.
Rajon Rondo? A good game from the point guard, at least on offense, but only when the Heat were allowing the Celtics to get close. He dished over 10 assists for the 25th consecutive regular season game, but made some bad decision with the ball (4 turnovers) and as always, couldn’t hit a wide open three pointer if his life was depending on it.
If Paul Pierce looked old and slow in the Eastern finals last season, nothing has changed. Rivers and Pierce spoke after the game about how they’re going to improve on defense, and that playing against the best team in the NBA was a good way to gauge where the Celtics are at in terms of progress and the blending in of the new players (Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Jared Sullinger, Leandro Barbosa). In general, there’s not that much to worry about. Things should get better. Pierce will look better when he’s not facing LeBron James, but despite his 23 points, he was having an awful night on both ends of the floor.
And then there are those who are supposed to make up for the loss of Ray Allen and then some. Courtney Lee with 11 points, Barbosa with 16 and Jason Terry with 8 were pretty good on their Celtics debut; Barbosa especially, providing the spark that helped the Celtics take it down to a four point game in the fourth. But too many guns weren’t firing, or simply firing in the wrong direction. Jeff Green, who the Celtics expect so much of this season, finished with only 3 points. Too many players were just not playing what Doc Rivers is preaching – smart basketball.
Rivers said during the offseason that they can beat the Miami Heat because they’re a smarter team than they are. Whether that’s simply misplace arrogance or just delusional faith, I’m not sure, but there was nothing from that sentence that was coming true on the NBA’s opening night.