MIAMI (AP) – With a long offseason behind them, the Miami Heat wasted no time showing they feel no lingering effects from their NBA finals loss.
The Boston Celtics also have championship aspirations, but having a healthy Paul Pierce would make that goal much more attainable.
The Heat’s home opener Tuesday night will be the first matchup between these teams since last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals, and the Celtics hope to have Pierce ready.
After losing to Dallas in six games in the finals, the Heat had plenty of time to think about their missed opportunity during the NBA lockout. Miami got another reminder of what could have been as it watched the Mavericks raise their championship banner before Sunday’s opener in Dallas.
The Heat, though, built a 15-point lead after 12 minutes and led by as many as 35 in a 105-94 victory. LeBron James finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Dwyane Wade added 26 points, eight boards and six assists.
“We tried to play aggressive,” James said. “We’re a focused team. We had a great training camp. We came in with the same mindset we had at practice, use our speed and play with mental focus.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers would like to see his team play that way for an entire 48 minutes after it was outscored 34-23 in the first quarter of Sunday’s 106-104 road loss to the New York Knicks.
Boston trailed by as many as 17 points, but led by 10 in the fourth quarter before squandering its opener.
“I thought we were as soft as you could be in the first quarter and then I thought we joined in to the 2011-12 season, and from that point on I was pretty happy with the way we played,” Rivers said. “I thought we competed well.”
Rajon Rondo had a brilliant game with 31 points, 13 assists, five rebounds and five steals, and Ray Allen (20 points) and Kevin Garnett (15 with eight rebounds) were solid, but Pierce was missed as he sat in street clothes with a bruised right heel.
No. 34 likely would have taken the final shot that Garnett missed as time expired.
If Pierce is able to go Tuesday, Rivers said he would come off the bench since he’s had limited practice time.
The nine-time All-Star scored a team-best 19.6 points per game as the Celtics fell in five games to Miami in last season’s playoffs.
Rondo averaged 10.0 points with 7.6 assists during the series, playing the final two-plus games with a dislocated left elbow. That didn’t help with Miami’s stars clicking, as Wade scored 30.2 points per game against Boston, while James averaged 28.0 with 8.2 boards.
“I got the utmost respect for that team,” James said of the Celtics after the series. “They’re the reason why (James, Wade and Chris Bosh) came together, is because of what they did, that blueprint they had in ’08 when they all came together.”
Bosh struggled with foul trouble Sunday and had just four points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Miami lost its last two home games last season – Games 2 and 6 against Dallas – after opening the 2011 playoffs 9-0 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Including the postseason, Miami has won four straight at home versus Boston. The Heat snapped an eight-game skid in this matchup with a 100-77 victory in the Celtics’ last regular-season visit April 10.
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