Paul Pierce said that the Boston Celtics wanted to "make a statement" when they met the rival Miami Heat in the season opener Tuesday night in Miami.
They would do just that, but the statement was they're a work in progress.
The Celtics were run out of the arena by the Heat, 120-107, on the night that LeBron James and Miami celebrated their championship from a season ago.
James did his thing, dropping 26 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out three assists. Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 29 points and former Celtic Ray Allen got his revenge, scoring 19 points off the bench on 5-of-7 shooting.
Pierce led the Celtics with 23 points and Rajon Rondo neared a triple-double, totaling 20 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds. Kevin Garnett finished with nine points and 12 rebounds and Leandro Barbosa added 16 points.
Ball control was also an issue for Boston, which committed 16 turnovers.
Here are five things to take away from Boston's season opening loss in Miami.
Celtics (can't) get defensive, but scoring not a problem
If the Celtics had played defense -- ANY sort of defense -- there's a good chance that they would be 1-0. The normally defensive-minded C's couldn't find their mojo and let the Heat run all over them. Miami shot 54.4 percent (43-for-79) and 50 percent from three-point range (8-of-16) on the way to their 120-point performance. In the paint, Miami outscored Boston 46-42. Giving up over 100 points, let alone 120, is just not what you would expect from a Doc Rivers-coached Celtics team. But as the TNT broadcasters were quick to point out, this is not a traditional C's team. The days of defensive dominance are gone, and Boston's re-tooling over the offseason focused the emphasis on scoring.
And the scoring was not a problem. Boston's total of 107 points is a very healthy one, and that would likely be the winning score in most other games against teams not named the Heat. The offense was much more willing to run than it was last year, as was evident early on. The bench struggled early, but Barbosa's electric fourth quarter brought the reserves up to a respectable 29-point performance. If they can keep scoring at this rate, offense won't be an issue.
LeBron James is still LeBron James
It's scary, really. It was like LeBron never stopped playing last season and picked up exactly where he left off last year. What's even scarier is that he had a double-double, 26 points and 10 rebounds, and it almost seemed like he wasn't trying. He quietly had eight points and seven rebounds in the first quarter and was tied with Pierce for a game-high 16 points at halftime. James didn't play all that much during the second half because of cramps, and that was part of the reason that Boston was nearly able to erase their 19- point deficit. James is coming off the greatest year of his career, and one of the best ever for a basketball player. He's saying all of the right things, too, and he appears focused on the here and now. When he's locked in, there truly is no one better.
Paul Pierce's foot (and game) is looking fine
The Paul Pierce of last year's postseason was one that looked his age. At 34, Pierce had been dealing with ailments throughout the season, going all the way back to a heel injury suffered just before training camp. It was obvious that Pierce wasn't himself in the playoffs. He just didn't have the same lift on his shot and he wasn't the same effective, Hall of Fame scorer that we've grown to love.
That Pierce was gone Tuesday night. Instead, we saw the same player who surpassed Larry Bird as the Celtics' second all-time leading scorer last season. Pierce looked great in the first half, dropping 16 points and getting to the basket with ease. He finished the game 6-of-15 from the floor with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists. No doubt, the captain is finally back at full health.
Leandro Barbosa may be steal of the offseason
There was a lot of talk about the Celtics bringing in Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, and while both had their moments on Tuesday, it was Leandro Barbosa -- a late addition to the team -- who shined the brightest off the Celtics' bench. Barbosa literally could not miss for the first half of the fourth quarter, and when all was said and done, he finished with 16 points in 16 minutes on 6-of-8 shooting and hit three treys. We're talking about a guy who seemingly came out of nowhere in the final week of the preseason. Heck, he didn't even play a preseason game because of visa problems. You heard plenty about how fast Barbosa was coming into the season, but it was something you had to see to believe. It was apparent right from the start, when Barbosa put on the afterburners and went coast-to-coast for a bucket, that he was the real deal. The signings of Terry, Lee, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox are all nice, but if Barbosa can keep this up, he may be the steal of the offseason for Boston.
Plenty of work left to be done for Celtics
It was a loss that you could live with, given the positives that were evident, but the fact is there is a lot of work to do before this team can even think about the postseason. Defense is clearly their top concern, with ball control also being an important issue. Fortunately, this was the first of 82 games, and there is so much time for the problems to be addressed, starting with game number two.
Next up: Boston has an excellent chance to work out the kinks against the Milwaukee Bucks in their home opener Friday night at TD Garden. Obviously, Miami is far superior to Milwaukee, but the Bucks' offense -- led by the talented duo of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings -- can score with ease, so the Celtics' defense will need to show up to limit points. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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