The rundown (a quick look at postgame headlines)
PIERCE'S BACK IS SORE; FUELED FOURTH-QUARTER OFFENSE AFTER INJURY
Celtics captain Paul Pierce left Tuesday's game against the Heat with back spasms after a collision with LeBron James late in the third quarter, but returned to score 11 fourth-quarter points and assist on a Ray Allen 3-pointer that essentially sealed the victory in the final minute.
After the game, Pierce admitted he's sore after spilling hard to the floor while picking up a blocking foul trying to deny James on a drive to the basket with 3:53 to play in the third quarter. He returned 1:17 into the fourth quarter, then connected on a pair of 3-pointers (while getting fouled in the act of shooting on another) to fuel his offensive outburst.
"A little sore right now," said Pierce. "I knew when I got up and started walking around on the court, the back started to spasm a little bit. I had the chance to go to the back, took a few Advils, and put some heat on it and it loosened up a little bit. It was pretty good for the rest of the game, but it's going to be a little sore [Tuesday] and [Wednesday]."
Pierce finished with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists over nearly 41 minutes of action. He missed 5:10 while being worked on in the locker room, but played much of the rest of the game, often serving as the shooting guard on the reserve unit. The Celtics' top backup shooting guard, Delonte West, is serving a 10-game suspension to start the regular season.
WITH BLOCKBUSTER BEHIND THEM, C's CAN ADMIT IT WAS A BIG GAME
The Celtics did their best to downplay Tuesday's game against the Heat, suggesting it was just the first of 82. But in the aftermath of a monster triumph at the Garden -- a place they didn't always boast a home-court advantage last season -- Boston players could come clean about getting swept up in the hype.
"I just said to Paul as we were coming [into the press conference room], I said, 'Are we in The Finals already?'" said Kevin Garnett, referring to how the media room is typically only used in the postseason when the media crowds swell. Tuesday's opener brought a Finals-like media deluge (roughly 500 credentials were issued).
"But it did have a lot of hype on it. A lot of good personnel on both teams, a lot of outstanding personnel. But to us it's about getting better and defending home court. Tonight was just that."
Allen took it a step further, suggesting the energy in the building made it almost exactly like a Finals game.
“I actually felt like I was in the playoffs," said Allen. "It had that same feeling, that same energy. Last time we played in this building, that’s where we were. When I came in here today it had that same feeling, the whole building was greened out.
“With [James and Dwyane Wade] coming here, the fans were ready, excited. It was great to walk in the building and you hear the fans going at it and giving it to the guys on the other team. I look forward to many nights like that."
LOOSE BALLS: DEEP THOUGHTS FROM SHAQ; PRAISE FOR RAY
A few postgame quotes from Shaquille O'Neal, who chipped in nine points and seven rebounds over 18 minutes in his debut in a Celtics' uniform:
* Shaq on the key to finishing off the Heat in the fourth quarter: “We just played. Ray hit some big shots. We got a couple big stops there. If we keep playing like that all year, then we’ll be fine. Big Baby came in and played well. Marquis [Daniels] played well. Danny [Ainge] did a good job of putting together a solid team.”
* Shaq on whether the Celtics sent the Heat a message with the win: “No. We just wanted to come out and win our first game. That’s what we did. We let you all worry about the hoopla and all of that. We know that we wanted to come and play a solid game and we knew if we did what we wanted to do, then we could possibly get a win. Now that this game is over, we’ve got a game tomorrow and we just want to be 2-0.”
Two thirds of the Big Three lofted hefty praise on Allen for his own big three in the final minute.
"I've been a witness to it the last three years, and he's one of the best players that I've ever played with," said Pierce. "It's an honor just to be able to step on the court with him night in and night out. You've got a guy that can take that kind of pressure off you, it's an amazing feeling. I don't know if you guys realize it, but Ray, he's hit so many game-winners for us and so many clutch shots for us, we have confidence to get him the ball in these situations. He delivers nine times out of 10."
Garnett smiled and shot back at Pierce: "And this guy [Pierce] hits big shots himself." To which Pierce joked back, "I like watching, too."
The Celtics went with a nine-man rotation, leaning on Pierce and their bigs in order to avoid going with the end of their bench. Neither rookie center Semih Erden nor reserve guard Von Wafer played. Both could get extended time Wednesday when the team plays the second end of a back-to-back in Cleveland.