LeBron, Heat Handle Celtics to Begin Title Defense

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LeBron James and the Miami Heat opened defense of their championship with perhaps the best test the Eastern Conference has to offer, and the Boston Celtics just did not have enough. Rather, the Heat resembled the Heat of last year, only with a few more weapons, making them even more tough to beat.

The Celtics, revamped themselves, battled long and hard, but they could not prevent Miami’s 120-107 victory. On a night when they received their championship rings, the Heat looked like champs, holding off Boston’s effort, a contentious tone to the game and even Kevin Garnett’s refusal to shake former Celtic Ray Allen’s hand.

Wade scored 29 points, James had 26 points and 10 rebounds while missing much of the second half because of cramps in both legs, and the reigning NBA champion prevailed.

“It was good to cap this night off with a win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was an emotional time for all of us in our organization.”

There were actual fireworks before the game to close the ceremony where the Heat got their championship rings and raised their title banner. There also were plenty of figurative fireworks late, first with Boston almost digging out of a 19-point hole and, after the outcome was decided, Rajon Rondo flagrantly fouling Wade by wrapping his arms around his neck on a drive in the final seconds.

“It was a punk play by (Rondo),” Wade said. “The league will take care of it. He clotheslined me, with two hands.”

Meanwhile, Garnett would not extend a hand to Allen, who bolted from Boston to the enemy Heat as a free agent. As Allen entered the game for the first time, he trotted toward the Boston bench, exchanging a handshake, embrace and a few words with Rivers, who hasn’t hidden his displeasure about his former shooting guard’s decision to sign with Miami. When Allen tried to engage Garnett, the mutual pleasantries ended. Allen tapped Garnett on the shoulder as he sat on the Boston bench; Garnett didn’t even flinch, staring straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge the gesture in any way.

“I was just trying to focus as much as I could. I am such an intense person,” Garnett said. “It was a blank. Obviously he’s on the other side. It’s time to play the game, man.”

Allen didn’t seem flustered. His first shot in a Miami uniform was — what else? — a corner 3-pointer, which swished.

“He was by himself in the corner,” Rivers said. “You’d think we’d know better.”

In the end, though, the first Celtics-Heat matchup of this season was like the final one of last season — with Miami winning.

Allen scored 19 points — needing only seven field goal attempts — in his first game with Miami and Chris Bosh threw in 19 points and 10 rebounds for Miami.

Paul Pierce scored 23 points and Rondo finished with 20 points and 13 assists for the Celtics, who lost to the Heat in last season’s Eastern Conference finals.

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