BOSTON (AP) - The Boston Celtics showed the NBA it can be done: Three stars, slapped together in the same summer, learning how to play together and winning a title on their first try.
In what was being called the most anticipated regular-season game in NBA history, the league’s newest superteam scored just nine points in the first quarter and lost 88-80 to Boston on Tuesday night. In no quarter last season did the much less-talented Heat score so few points; nor did James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, for that matter.
It was only the first half of the first game, but it was an early reminder that paper talent doesn’t always translate into a winning team, especially when superstars and their egos are involved.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were able to do it in Boston from the start, winning their first eight games in 2007-08 and 29 of their first 32 en route to the franchise’s 17th NBA title.
“They sacrificed everything. They didn’t worry about points or rebounds, anything individual,” James said before the game. “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 semifinals, a second playoff loss in three years that helped convince him he could never be a champion in 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.”
The sold-out crowd _ a single ticket in the luxury suites was listed at $18,824 a few hours before the game _ booed James virtually every time he touched the ball and delighted in Miami’s early struggles.
Returning to the building where his Cleveland career ended _ one round after Wade and the Heat were knocked out of the playoffs _ James avoided questions about the controversial summer in which he became the NBA’s biggest villain except to say, “It was pretty long.”
“This is fun. This is the best time of the year,” he said. “I’m at a point where I’m looking forward to playing the games.”
Under the banners for the Celtics‘ 17 NBA championships _ including the 2008 one that was hung at James‘ expense _ the former Cleveland superstar sat in his Adidas warmups chatting with a Nike representative while reporters surrounded teammates Wade and Bosh following the morning shootaround.
When those scrums dispersed, nearly a dozen cameras sauntered over to take video of James, just sitting there.
“I feel like a fish in a fish tank,” James said. “How fast can he swim?”