- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

With a new number and new colors on his jersey, LeBron James started a new chapter of his basketball life Tuesday night when he and the Miami Heat took on the Boston Celtics in the NBA season opener.

___

Ballgame.

LeBron James‘ debut with the Miami Heat doesn’t quite go according to plan, as his new club falls to the Boston Celtics 88-80.

Miami made the requisite run, cutting a 19-point deficit to three in the final moments, before ultimately falling in a game that was closer than most would have expected after watching the Heat stumble through the early going.

Celtics fans serenaded the Heat with chants of “Ov-er-ra-ted!” in the final minutes, and Dwyane Wade surely set a career high of the wrong kind by having two shots bounce off the frame of the backboard in the same game. Miami was down 13. Game was over. Right?

Nope.

A 10-0 run had the wearers of the green turning a little green, with the Heat getting within 83-80 on James‘ scooping layup with a little more than a minute left.

Then Ray Allen _ who crushed the Heat and the Cavaliers in the playoffs last season _ made Wade, James and others relive those nightmares by hitting a 3-pointer from the left corner, pushing Boston’s lead back to six.

With that, the “Ov-er-ra-ted!” chants resumed.

Kind of might make for an odd scene in Cleveland on Wednesday night when Boston visits. After all, given the way James has gone from revered to reviled there, some Cavs fans might want to greet the Celtics with open arms for spoiling his debut.

Neither team was great offensively, though Miami was downright awful in that department at times. The final numbers: Heat shot 27 of 74 from the field, and James _ in the highest-scoring debut ever for a Heat player _ finished with 31 points, but had eight turnovers.

Allen had 20 for Boston, which got 19 from Paul Pierce. And James, Chris Bosh and Wade walked off the court together, not expecting Game 1 to go like that.

“It was fun,” Rajon Rondo said.

___

Big 3 vs. Big 3, and it’ll be decided by … Big Baby?

Glen Davis takes a charge against Dwyane Wade at one end, then adds a dunk and another score at the other end in short order. Paul Pierce sticks a 3-pointer, and voila! _ a four-point game that seemed to be slipping away from Boston gets well in hand again, with the Celtics now up 73-64 with under 7 minutes left.

Right on cue, the Dwyane Wade commercial getting aired during this timeout. “I have my ways,” Wade says in the spot.

He’ll need those ways if the Heat are pulling this game out tonight.

Meanwhile, James has tied the most points scored by a Heat player in his first game with Miami. Only the most ardent Heat fans would get the previous record-holders right: Willie Burton and Antoine Walker, both of whom scored 25 in their Heat debuts.

___

Dwyane Wade checks back in with about 9 minutes to go, Heat within 66-61 in Boston.

It’s not playoff-quality basketball, at least offensively. Lost in the hubbub tonight, however, is that these already look like playoff-caliber defenses. Bodies are flying like it’s May or June.

You know Udonis Haslem enjoyed taking that charge against Jermaine O’Neal in the first minute of the final quarter. Let’s just say JO wasn’t the most popular guy at times in the Heat locker room last season. On the other end, Eddie House hit a 3-pointer that would have gotten Miami within three, only to have it waved off when Zydrunas Ilgauskas was called for an illegal screen.

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Down 19 at one point, the Miami Heat have closed within 63-57 entering the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics _ and here’s a stunner, it’s the two-time reigning NBA MVP leading the way.

LeBron James is up to 25 points, 15 of them coming in the third quarter, and simply took over things for Miami in the last few minutes. The Heat outscored Boston 27-18 in the third.

Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have combined for 16 points. Paul Pierce is in the locker room, presumably getting his bruised back from the block _ OK, maybe a charge _ he took trying to defend James. The Celtics still have just one man, Ray Allen, in double figures with 17. And Shaquille O'Neal looked a bit tired in his last stint.

This might get interesting yet.

___

Here comes LeBron.

A 3-pointer from the right wing, a jumper from the top of the key, bringing the ball up the court … what, you didn’t think LeBron James would put his full repertoire on display tonight?

Boston is unfazed, and still leads 62-50 with 2 minutes left in the third, as the Heat haven’t been able to put together anything close to a sustained run. But the way James is going right now, one would think that if Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh can come up with much in the fourth quarter, this’ll turn into a game before too long.

___

Midway through the third quarter, the Heat are still struggling in LeBron James‘ debut with Miami. The Celtics lead 55-40, and Miami is showing little in terms of offensive signs of life.

If Shaquille O'Neal could finish, it’d be even worse for Miami. He’s missed more than a couple opportunities that he would have dunked into oblivion not too long ago.

Chris Bosh has six points and five rebounds. Dwyane Wade is 2 for 10 from the field. Most telling stat? Rajon Rondo has 12 assists for the Celtics. The Heat have seven assists as a team, and haven’t scored more than six consecutive points during any stretch of this game.

It’s like the Heat built this team having a sharpshooter around in mind. Mike Miller is being missed already.

___

First half in the books. Celtics lead 45-30. After scoring nine points in the first quarter, Miami got all the way up to 21 points in the second 12 minutes.

Eddie House made the smart play, giving LeBron James the ball in transition for a dunk with 52.4 seconds left in the half. Boston led by as many as 18, before Miami finally made a few shots in the final minutes. Boston closed out better, and the Celtics still went into the break with a comfortable edge.

“A lot of bad basketball,” TNT’s Charles Barkley said. (At least he didn’t call it ‘turrible,’ in his special brand of vernacular.)

The Heat put this James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh team together with an eye on history. Hey, they’re already making it. The 30-point first half ties for the sixth-worst in team history. The others: 22 against Portland (Dec. 6, 2002), 26 against Toronto (March 19, 2008), 27 against Detroit (April 6, 2008), 28 against Boston (April 2, 2003) and 29 against San Antonio (Dec. 6, 2003).

Here’s how bad it is for Miami: Udonis Haslem is missing open jumpers. Udonis Haslem never misses open jumpers.

Ray Allen has 11 for Boston. James has 10 for the Heat, who are shooting 11 of 41.

___

And more on the Heat scoring drought in the first 12 minutes, courtesy of STATS LLC.

The last time the Heat scored nine or fewer points in a quarter was March 15, 2009, at the Philadelphia 76ers. They scored nine points in the fourth quarter in that game _ which was one day after Wade scored 50 in a triple-overtime victory in Miami over Utah.

The last time James‘ former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, scored nine or fewer points in a quarter was February 2, 2007, against the Chicago Bulls. They scored nine points in the second quarter that night.

___

Enough’s enough, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says, telling his team “We’ve got the jitters out, OK? Let’s make a move.”

Down by 12 with 8:25 left in the half, it certainly was time for one.

Boston has some new pieces, sure. Shaquille O'Neal, most notably. But for the most part, the Celtics are doing what the Celtics have done defensively for the last three or four seasons, and Miami _ which lacks a true post-up, big-man threat _ is settling for jump shots by the truckload.

Some of them are downright ugly. Dwyane Wade took a jumper from the left baseline with 8 minutes left in the half. Clank _ off the side of the backboard. In other words, the Heat are doing exactly what the Celtics want them to do.

By the way, the Heat low in any quarter last season was 12 points. So nine in the first quarter … unexpected on so many levels.

No move yet for the Heat. Celtics 31-16, 6:10 left in the half.

___

Well, that wasn’t pretty.

Boston 16, Miami 9 after one quarter. Miami shot 4 for 17, with five turnovers in the first 12 minutes. The Celtics weren’t a whole lot better, going 7 for 20.

“Defensively, there’s some good things going on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told TNT before the start of the second quarter in the on-court interview _ always a favorite to-do event for NBA coaches. “Offensively, exhale. It’s going to get better than this.”

LeBron James said Monday that neither team would be in championship form, so really, no one should be surprised by rust all over Boston’s parquet.

A lot of rust on Dwyane Wade, too.

Wade released a new Jordan Brand commercial Tuesday called “Dominate Another Day.” He didn’t dominate the opening quarter of the Heat season. Coming back after not playing for three weeks _ six months, really, if you take away his three-minute preseason stint before hurting his hamstring _ Wade was 0 for 4 with three turnovers.

James did have one highlight moment in the final minutes of the first quarter. Keeping the Celtics from taking what would have been an early 10-point lead, he caught up with Rajon Rondo and blocked the fast-break try from the Boston point guard.

Given how neither team has gotten its scoring groove on yet, those stops might prove crucial.

___

LeBron James‘ first shot with the Miami Heat?

Swish.

The first points of the NBA season came 66 seconds into the first game, with James connecting on a jumper from the right wing.

For the record, Shaquille O'Neal took the first shot of the season. Forced it. Bad miss. Dwyane Wade and Kevin Garnett were called for fouls on the next two possessions, turnovers for both the Heat and Celtics.

Predictably, both teams came out a bit tentative. James‘ first basket produced the only points in the first three minutes of the game. Shaq, after two bad misses, got the year’s first dunk off Rajon Rondo’s assist four minutes into the game.

By the way, Rondo is still good. (He’s the one that always seems forgotten.)

Celtics, 11-6 midway through the first quarter.

___

James said he had received positive feedback on the Nike commercial that has him repeating, “Should I be who you want me to be?”

“They liked it, especially my friends and family,” James said pregame. “We all lived it, so they enjoyed it.”

The commercial shows James in a variety of scenes: staring at a high school trophy case, speaking to an empty ballroom with a “Hall of Fame” banner behind him, eating a pink doughnut. Asked which of the “jokes” he liked best, James turned serious.

“None of them were jokes,” he said. “I wasn’t in a joking mood.”

___

So either the Heat or the Celtics will win the first game of the season.

Of course, the real goal for both teams is winning the last game of the season.

Oddsmakers in Las Vegas say Miami is the favorite to hoist that championship trophy. And there’s no shortage of experts who say Boston or Orlando will come out of the Eastern Conference. And the Lakers _ looking for a three-peat _ might be the top choice across the NBA to win it all again.

On TNT, Kenny Smith just called it “the biggest opening night in NBA history,” and who could argue? Dwyane Wade was a big deal by himself. So was Chris Bosh. So was LeBron James. Put them together … well, starting tonight, we’ll all see how big a deal that truly is.

___

A few notes from the early going:

_ It’s Dwyane Wade’s first game since dropping the “Flash” nickname he got a few years ago from former teammate Shaquille O'Neal, now the Celtics‘ starter at center. So it’s Post Flash. PF, if you will. And where did Wade dine last night in Boston? PF Changs. Seriously.

_ LeBron was listening to Eminem at his locker before the game. As Shady said, success is his only option. Failure’s not.

_ When James took the floor for warmups, yes, the boos rained down from the green-clad fans in Boston. James seemed even more poker-faced than usual.

_ Starters: Carlos Arroyo, James, Wade, Bosh and Joel Anthony for Miami. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Shaq for Boston.

_ To TNT’s credit, the network showed the part of James‘ new Nike commercial where he takes a slight jab at a slimming-down Charles Barkley’s weight. Barkley had been particularly outspoken about how James made “The Decision” last summer. Barkley said he thought the 90-second spot released Monday was too long, adding, “nobody dislikes LeBron James except the people in Cleveland.”

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