LeBron, Wade, Allen ring in season by holding off Celtics
Unlike in 2006, when the Heat raised a banner and then landed with a thud in their first post-championship outing, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James reminded the sellout crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena what made this team so special last season.
And this time, Ray Allen offered a hint of why the championship remix could be even better.
With Wade scoring 29 points, James 26 and Allen adding 19 in his Heat debut, the Heat pushed past the Boston Celtics 120-107, a similar result as when the teams last met, in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.
The Heat used that series to springboard to the 2012 NBA title, setting up Tuesday's pregame theatrics.
Those pyrotechnics were followed by the thunder of a James breakaway dunk, an early pair of Allen 3-pointers and the artistry of Wade in the open court.
Ultimately, it was enough to hold on, with the Celtics nearly storming all the way back from a 19-point deficit, with James sidelined at the finish with leg cramps, similar to the issue that impacted him in the Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
No, this was not a repeat of the Heat's 2006 opening-night thud against the Chicago Bulls.
Because this isn't Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and Gary Payton on their last legs.
Instead, it was Mario Chalmers showing leadership with 11 assists, Chris Bosh adding 19 points, Rashard Lewis scoring 10 in his Heat debut on 4-of-5 shooting.
Ultimately, it was enough to offset a retooled Celtics roster led by the 23 points of forward Paul Pierce and the 13 assists of Rajon Rondo, who ended the game with a flagrant foul against Wade.
If there were any doubts about Allen fitting in, they were answered in the first half, with the former Celtics guard scoring 13 over the first two periods to help stake the Heat to that eight-point halftime lead. He closed with the second-highest total by a Heat reserve in a season opener, second only to the 25 points of Willie Burton in 1990.
From the outset, the Heat made it clear this would not be a repeat of the celebration domination they suffered at the hands of the Bulls in 2006, when they were blown out 108-66 after receiving their first championship rings.
This time, Shane Battier set the tone by opening the scoring with a 3-pointer, with the Heat crisply moving the ball on the way to a 31-25 lead at the end of the opening period.
Along the way, Allen received a rousing ovation when he checked in late in the opening period, promptly converting a corner 3-pointer in front of the Heat bench. Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole and Lewis also saw time off the bench in the opening period, as coach Erik Spoelstra went nine deep before the start of the second quarter.
As for concerns about the Heat's undersized approach, James took care of those with seven first-quarter rebounds on the way to 10.
Spoelstra said going in it was time to move past last season's championship.
"It brings us back to how difficult it was for us to be able to get over that hump," Spoelstra said of opening against the Celtics. "With this group, we've built up an ability to compartmentalize, be able to focus on one thing and move on to the next thing."
As for Tuesday's rotation, Spoelstra warned not to read too much into the Heat's opening act.
"The games will tell us," Spoelstra said of how he will utilize a roster bolstered by the offseason acquisitions of Allen and Lewis. "We have to figure out some things with the rotation. But there's not a panic. We'll make adjustments if and when needed.
For all the downplaying of the championship celebration, James said he appreciated the night was about more than the first of 82 games.
"It's not a given. There moments aren't given," he said.