MIAMI – With shiny new diamond-encrusted rings on their fingers, the Miami Heat began their NBA title defence in confident fashion with a 120-107 win over Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics last night.
Miami were presented with championship rings and raised the title banner to the arena rafters before the game to mark their second NBA title and the first since the creation of the ‘Big Three’ with the arrival of Lebron James and Chris Bosh to team up with Dwyane Wade.
Ray Allen made his Miami debut against his old team and put aside any concerns about his fitness with 19 points as the home crowd taunted the Celtics with chants of “We got Ray!”
Last season’s Most Valuable Player James marked his first ring ceremony with 26 points but had to sit out most of the fourth quarter with leg cramps.
James, who also suffered cramps in last season’s finals, left in the third quarter but came back before cramping up again.”At that point there was no point in forcing it,” said Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra.
“He already went back and started to cramp again. Game one is not the time to pull what we did in the finals,” he added.
James’ points tally continued his run of scoring at least 20 points in each of his last 28 regular season games against Boston.
Wade, looking fresh after the knee surgery in the off-season which cost him a place in the gold medal US Olympic team, top scored with 29 points, while Bosh delivered down the stretch and finished with 19 points.
Miami were 19 points up early in the fourth but, in the absence of James, Boston launched a comeback and reduced the deficit to four with just over two minutes remaining on the clock.
The Heat rallied, however, to gain a win against the team they defeated in last year’s Eastern Conference championship game.
Paul Pierce had 23 points and Rajon Rondo 20 for the Celtics who are again expected to be the main challenger to the Heat in the East.
In another match the heavily anticipated new era of Los Angeles Lakers basketball began with a whimper as their much vaunted team bristling with All-Stars were beaten 99-91 by an under-strength Dallas Mavericks on their home court.
Though Bryant scored 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting and Spanish forward Pau Gasol weighed in with a game-high 23, the Lakers paid the penalty for a dismal free-throw display, making only 12-of-31. Dwight Howard (19 points, 10 rebounds) made only three-of-14.
The Mavericks were without 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki.