Playing under Boston's 17 championship banners, the Miami Heat team put together to win its own NBA title couldn't win its first game, as the new Big Three lost to the old Big Three of the Celtics, 88-80 on Tuesday night.
James scored 31 points, but the other members of the trio struggled. Dwyane Wade was limited to 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting and Chris Bosh added eight points and eight rebounds. They combined for 15 of the Heat's 17 turnovers — eight by James, six by Wade and one by Bosh.
Ray Allen led Boston with 20 points, Paul Pierce scored 19 and Kevin Garnett had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Those three joined together in 2007 and led the Celtics to the NBA title that season.
Boston led 45-30 at halftime, but Miami cut that to 63-57 after the third quarter behind James' 15 points in that period. A layup by James made it 83-80 with 1:10 left in the game. But Boston, which once led by 19, got the last five points on a 3-pointer by Allen and two free throws by Pierce.
Boston led 16-9 after one quarter, the first time since March 15, 2009, at the Philadelphia 76ers that the Heat scored nine points or fewer in a period. The last time James' Cavaliers scored nine or fewer points in a quarter was February 2, 2007, when they managed nine in the second against the Chicago Bulls.
Things got so bad for the Heat in the first half that Shaquille O'Neal, a notoriously poor free throw shooter, made the first two he tried as a Celtic. That boosted the lead to 41-22 with 2:13 left in the second quarter.
Miami then got a brief burst, scoring six straight points to make it 41-28. The last basket in that surge was a dunk by James on a backward pass from Eddie House, whose steal started their 2-on-none break.
That drew cheers from two Heat fans — one wearing a T-shirt with James' name on the back and the other with a jersey bearing Wade's name — but a fan wearing a green Celtics T-shirt, yelled, "He's supposed to do that. That is not impressive."
It was pretty impressive, considering how poorly the Heat shot in the first half against a quick, aggressive Celtics defense.
Miami missed 30 of its 41 shots, a paltry 26.8 percent. Boston went 17-for-38 (44.7 percent).
The Celtics lost Pierce with 4:32 left in the third period when he hit the floor and hurt his back as he was charged with a blocking foul on James, who made two shots and cut the lead to 55-45. Pierce returned with 10:43 left in the game with Boston ahead 64-57.
James came back to the building where he lost the last game of his Cleveland career in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He then became a free agent after seven seasons with the Cavaliers and signed with the Heat.
That also was O'Neal's last game there, also with Cleveland. He was back in a Celtics uniform Tuesday and had nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.