- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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.

Now they’re showing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat that it’s not so easy to do.

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.

But that was no different than when James with the Cavaliers.

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?”

Wade won the 2006 NBA title in Miami, but the Heat lost to the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season and the Cavaliers followed them out through the very same locker room doors.

Wade was disappointed but determined after the playoff loss, vowing that he would stay with the Heat only if he got some help. Team president Pat Riley got him Bosh and James, along with a handful of role players who flocked to Miami for the chance to be a part of a superteam.

Now they’re back in the building where it all ended, and it all started.

“It was probably a little bit better than I hoped,” Wade said. “When I left here, I said this is my last first-round playoff exit. Hopefully, I’m a man of my word.”

But a victory in a first-round playoff series won’t be enough for the Heat, who will be the favorites to win it all for as long as the Big 3 are together.

“You put a team like this together, you understand you can do something very special,” Wade said. “There have been a lot of good trios in this game. We have to put ourselves up there with those guys before we can think of getting past them.

Miami’s Big 3 played together just three minutes during the preseason before Wade strained his right hamstring in the Oct. 5 opener. He returned to practice on Saturday, when he remained on the court with James for more work long after most Heat players left the floor.

Asked if he was in game shape, Wade said, “I haven’t played a game yet, so I can’t tell you.”

“I’m in practice,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get some heavy legs in the game, but I’ve got teammates now where I can get a rest every now and then.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted that the three stars had played together before _ at the 2006 world championships and again at the ‘08 Olympics in Beijing, where they won the gold medal. So he didn’t expect them to have trouble figuring each other out over a long season, even with the pressure of the high expectations surrounding them.

“I think it will be easy with these guys,” he said. “It’s not their first rodeo. They’ve played in front of bright lights. I think it will be more inspiring than anything else.”

Since signing with the Heat, James has become beloved in Miami.

He remains a respected rival in Boston.

But he’s still hated back in Ohio.

A radio host in Cleveland hired a witch doctor to try to jinx James and his attempt to win a title elsewhere. WMMS-FM broadcast the ceremony on Tuesday morning, claiming to use bones, blood and a James jersey to cast a curse on the two-time MVP.

Spoelstra said that the attention _ neither good nor bad _ wouldn’t affect his team.

“We’re not running away from the attention, the expectations or the pressure,” he said. “We feel like we’re getting attacked on all sides, but once you step on the court, it all just goes away.”

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