Boston Celtics 88, Miami Heat 80
So much for the roaring debut of the new Miami Heat, huh? Instead of beginning their supposed reign over the NBA in style, they looked pretty terrible in falling 88-80 to the Boston Celtics. They scored just nine points in the first quarter and 30 points at halftime, two totals lower than any quarter or half score they put up last season. Yeesh.
I'm not all that surprised Miami lost. Like we mentioned before the game, the first few games of the regular season favor the team that emerges from the preseason unscathed and cohesive. The Celtics have a core of players that know each other's tendencies, and they stayed healthy in October. The Miami Heat have a core of players who have never played together -- much less played with anyone remotely similar to each other in terms of style of play -- and they did not stay healthy in October. Throw in Boston's home-court advantage, which added a whole new level of emotion to the game, and you can see why it wasn't so crazy to predict a Miami loss last night.
That said, the way the Heat lost is concerning. I know they will need some time to figure out how to work well together offensively, and going against a defense as good as Boston's is a tough first test. But if you ignore the names and faces and just look at the offensive sets, the Heat looked ... well, they looked a lot like they did last year. They halfheartedly ran through their sets for about 10 seconds until someone got an isolation, at which point everyone stood around and watched. Once that stopped working, Erik Spoelstra went to his "give the ball to the star and have everyone clear out" offense, which got them back in the game, but isn't the way you win consistently. The only difference is that "the star" last night was LeBron James, and not Dwyane Wade.
Yes, Miami made it a game. But they did so by rolling out the following lineup late in the third quarter:
Los Angeles Lakers 112, Houston Rockets 110
How big a pickup was Steve Blake for the Lakers this summer? I'm not saying this only because of his game-winning shot, but because of all the other things he's going to provide. As big as his game-winner was, I think his two three-pointers at the end of the third quarter to keep the Lakers within striking distance were even bigger. He knows where to be in the Triangle, hits key shots and is adept at moving off the ball. Check out how he loses Aaron Brooks on his big bucket.
With Blake around, the Lakers can finally afford to limit Derek Fisher's minutes until playoff time. That's big for a team that's clearly not playing for regular-season wins.
Houston shouldn't be upset with their performance, though. Their issue remains the same: when push comes to shove, who scores big buckets in the fourth quarter when the offense breaks down? Kevin Martin and Brooks played well, but neither are quite good enough to be that guy. That said, I was surprised at how well they were able to keep the pace up even with Yao Ming in there. They'll win a lot of games this year simply by running teams off the court. I also thought Yao looked pretty good, considering he was playing his first meaningful game in 15 months.
Kobe Bryant struggled with his shot, but still managed to score 27 points against Shane Battier's defense. He'll have games where he doesn't shoot well, so this shouldn't be a surprise. Pau Gasol, meanwhile, was a monster, dropping 29 and 11 on a very good Rockets front line.
From the blogs: Silver Screen and Roll writes that the Lakers were able to overcome the emotion of the pre-game ring ceremony and put forth a good effort. The Dream Shake writes that the Rockets looked a lot like they did last year, despite their new additions.
Portland Trail Blazers 106, Phoenix Suns 92
It's only one game, but the Blazers proved why they are so friggin' scary to many of the top teams in the Western Conference. We think of them as a slow, plodding team that bangs the ball into the post, but they have so many pieces on the roster that they can match up with pretty much anyone. Last night, they pulled away from the Suns in the fourth quarter by using the following small lineup: