For now, the Celtics get to be the beasts of the East.
In a much-anticipated heavyweight battle featuring the early favorites to meet in the 2010 Eastern Conference finals, Boston trumped LeBron James and the Cavs 95-89 in Tuesday night's season opener — in a building where the Cavs went 39-2 last year.
Despite falling behind by as many as 14 in the first quarter, the Celtics worked their way out of a massive hole to lead by as many as 15 in the second half and eventually take Round 1 of this season-long battle.
Kevin Garnett, playing for the first time since undergoing surgery for bone spurs last May, tallied 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks for the Celtics. King James finished the night with a game-high 38 points, but did it in a losing effort.
Celtics 95, Cavaliers 89
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Oct. 27, 2009
Headliner: The Big 3 is now the Big 4. It was nice to see KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce back together again, but it was even nicer to see new addition Rasheed Wallace join them. All four of them finished in double figures in points and combined for six blocks. KG and Pierce each finished with double-doubles, and Pierce led all Celtics scorers with 23 points.
Unsung Hero: Danny Ainge better start thinking up a solution to the Rajon Rondo mess now. The point guard finished with just eight points, but he shot 50 percent from the floor and tallied 10 assists, six rebounds and three steals for a deep Boston team that suddenly has lots of legitimate scoring threats.
Scrub: It's hard to call LeBron James a scrub at any point, and he's not. But the King did have a chance to get the Cavs back into this one and he blew it, big time. After he sunk a 3 with five minutes left, Cleveland's deficit was suddenly down to four. On the Celtics' ensuing possession, Kendrick Perkins missed a 14-foot jumper, opening the door for James to narrow the deficit even further — but he traveled bringing the ball up the court. It could have been a huge momentum swing for the Cavs, and instead, it was a huge momentum swing for Boston.
Turning Point: Out of the gates, the Celtics didn't look good. They looked confused, nervous and out of sync, and the Cavaliers looked like they'd been waiting all summer for this. Cleveland started the game with a 13-2 run and led by as many as 14 in the first quarter. Then, at the end of the first and into the second, Boston stopped turning the ball over and started sinking shots. Rasheed Wallace's 3-pointer with about eight minutes left in the half knotted the score at 34, and Paul Pierce's 3 two minutes later gave Boston its first lead.
Up Next: The Celtics quickly get a chance to get another win under their belts as they head home for a date with the Bobcats on Wednesday night. It's Charlotte's chance to tip off the season on a positive note and the Celtics' chance to prove that they can show some grit against teams other than their biggest conference rivals.