From left, Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James pose with their 2011-2012 NBA Finals championship rings during a ceremony before their game against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday to open the 2012-13 season in Miami.
MIAMI — LeBron James limped off with leg cramps two times in the second half.
He wasn't worried about the outcome. By now, he knows the depth of the Miami Heat roster. And on ring night, there was no way the reigning NBA champions were going to have their party spoiled.
Dwyane Wade scored 29 points, James finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds despite spending parts of the third and fourth quarters hydrating in the locker room, and the Heat beat the Boston Celtics 120-107 Tuesday night in the season opener for both teams.
"A night that we won't forget," James said.
That's true, for a lot of reasons.
There were actual fireworks before the game to close the ceremony where the Heat got their championship rings and raised their title banner. There also were plenty of figurative fireworks late, first with Boston almost digging out of a 19-point hole and, after the outcome was decided, Rajon Rondo flagrantly fouling Wade by wrapping his arms around his neck on a drive.
In the end, though, the first Celtics-Heat matchup of this season was like the final one of last season — with Miami winning.
"It was good to cap this night off with a win," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Chris Bosh was dominant late, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Allen scored 19 points — needing only seven field goal attempts — in his first game with the Heat since leaving Boston over the summer.
Allen got chants from the Heat crowd, which is nothing new. Except this time, they were positive.
"Never thought I'd hear that here," Allen said.
Paul Pierce scored 23 points, Rondo finished with 20 points and 13 assists, and Leandro Barbosa scored 16 for Boston. The Celtics, who lost to the Heat in last season's Eastern Conference finals, were not on the court for the ring ceremony.
They almost wrecked the festive mood with a late comeback.
An 11-2 run late in the fourth quarter got Boston within 111-107 on Courtney Lee's layup with 2:09 left. That was the last Celtics' hurrah — Bosh scored the game's next seven points, sealing it for Miami.
"I thought they were the aggressor the whole game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They got on the floor where they wanted to get on the floor. They took us out of stuff that they wanted to."
Rashard Lewis scored 10 points for Miami, which held on even while James, last season's MVP of both the regular season and NBA Finals, dealt with cramps, first in his right leg and then his left.
"It's not an all-the-time thing," James said. "I'm not too worried about it."
The Heat got their championship rings from owner Micky Arison before the game, then watched the banner get hoisted to the rafters. More emotion came late, when Wade drove past Rondo — and the Celtics guard grabbed Wade around the neck. Wade appeared as though he was ready to throw the ball at Rondo in retaliation, and stopped himself.
"I thought he hooked me," Rondo said.
Wade had a different opinion.
"It was a punk play by him," Wade said. "The league will take care of it. He clotheslined me, with two hands."
While Rondo raised eyebrows by putting hands on Wade, Kevin Garnett made news by not offering his hand to Allen.
As Allen entered the game for the first time, he trotted toward the Boston bench, exchanging a handshake, embrace and a few words with Rivers, who hasn't hidden his displeasure about his former shooting guard's decision to sign with Miami and didn't sound certain before the game how he would react when he saw Allen in Miami colors. Allen then briskly shook hands with a few assistant coaches.
But when Allen tried to engage Garnett, the mutual pleasantries ended. Allen tapped Garnett on the shoulder as he sat on the Boston bench; Garnett didn't even flinch, staring straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge the gesture in any way.
"I was just trying to focus as much as I could. I am such an intense person," Garnett said. "It was a blank. Obviously he's on the other side. It's time to play the game, man."
Allen didn't seem flustered. His first shot in a Miami uniform was — what else? — a corner 3-pointer, which swished.
"He was by himself in the corner," Rivers said. "You'd think we'd know better."
The first Heat angst of the season came in the third quarter, when James walked slowly to the bench after a timeout with 4:40 remaining, favoring his right leg and then headed out the tunnel toward the locker room.
When he left, Miami led 79-70.
When he returned to open the fourth quarter, the lead was 93-76. The Heat scored the final eight points of the third, with Bosh, Allen, Mario Chalmers and Lewis all scoring in the final 2:17 to give the Heat their biggest lead of the game.
James — who dealt with cramps in last season's NBA Finals — opened the fourth quarter with a jumper to extend the run to 10-0, and Miami seemed well on its way. But he returned to the locker room a short time later, the cramps having flared up again.
"Once you start cramping, there's nothing you can do about it," James said.
Nonetheless, the Heat found a way to finish without the MVP.
"This was a great night," James said.
NOTES: Wade passed the 15,000-point mark for his career early in the second quarter, becoming the 123rd player in NBA history to reach that mark, according to STATS LLC. ... Rondo had at least 10 assists for the 25th straight regular-season game. ... The Celtics allowed 62 points in the first half; they gave up 62 or more only seven times in 379 regular-season and playoff games over the past four seasons. ... Miami players wore sneakers with gold somewhere in the color scheme; James' were primarily gold — in honor of the ring — and trimmed in white and red.
LAKERS ROCKED AT HOME IN OPENER BY AILING MAVS:
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers have spent a month together now, and they still haven't won a game. They acknowledge it's a struggle to blend this new combination of talents into a cohesive team.
The Dallas Mavericks were happy to show them how it's done in a stunning season opener.
Darren Collison scored 17 points, Brandan Wright added 14, and the Mavericks spoiled the Los Angeles debuts of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash with a 99-91 victory over the Lakers on Tuesday night.
O.J. Mayo had 12 points as the Mavericks comfortably beat the star-studded Lakers, pulling away steadily in a drama-free second half without any help from injured Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas and Los Angeles both made big offseason moves that upended two contending teams, yet the Mavericks were much more together than their high-profile rivals.
"It was very satisfying to be up 16 points against that team, with all the low expectations (people had) for us," said Elton Brand, who had eight points and 11 rebounds in his first game for Dallas.
While the Mavericks celebrated an energizing win, the Lakers' superstar newcomers both had debuts to forget.
Howard had 19 points and 10 rebounds while missing 11 of his 14 free throws before fouling out with 2:02 to play. That's hardly what he anticipated after arriving in a trade with Orlando last August, but not much has gone according to plan in the first month for the Lakers' starters, who barely played together during their 0-8 preseason due to Kobe Bryant's nagging injuries and Howard's deliberate return from back surgery.
"It's not an excuse, but it will all come with time," Howard said. "We haven't had an opportunity to really play together as much as we want, but we're going to get it. ... We're going to chip away, and we're going to get better."
Nash managed just seven points and four assists while trying to balance the Lakers' new motion offense with his own strengths on the pick-and-roll — all while getting roundly outplayed by Mavs newcomer Collison.
"It's growing pains, and it's a struggle," the two-time NBA MVP said. "We're out of sync, and we're going to probably have some more moments in games like that."
Bryant scored 22 points while playing on an injured right foot for the Lakers, whose loaded lineup produced a largely passionless second-half effort in front of a sellout crowd expecting to see a super team capable of contending for the franchise's 17th championship — a fact acknowledged by Bryant when he addressed the fans before the game.
"As you know, we have a lot of expectations this season," Bryant said. "We're trying to live up to the expectations. We're trying to bring another championship back to where it belongs, back to Los Angeles."
Instead, the Lakers showed how much work they will have to do to challenge Miami and the NBA's best.
"It's not the way we wanted it to go," said Pau Gasol, who led the Lakers with 23 points and 13 rebounds. "We know it's not going to happen for us right away, but we've just got to stick with it."
Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Rodrigue Beaubois scored 11 points apiece for the Mavericks, who snapped a six-game skid against the Lakers over the past two seasons.
"It's a great win," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "If you execute in this league and have talent, you have a chance to win, and we did that. The Lakers are going to be fine. They've got a lot of new guys and a new system, but we were opportunistic tonight and got the job done."
Dallas also contained Howard by using his career-long free-throw ineptitude against him — hardly a novel strategy, but one that worked particularly well when combined with Howard's opening-night nerves. The Lakers were 12 for 31 altogether from the free-throw line, including Jordan Hill's 1-for-6 effort — a major factor in their inability to close the gap on Dallas in the second half.
"I've just got to stop thinking so much and get up there and make them," Howard said.
Jae Crowder scored eight points in his NBA debut for the Mavericks, who are likely to be without Nowitzki for at least six more weeks while the German superstar recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. Dallas also played without new center Chris Kaman, yet had little trouble matching up with the Lakers down low.
"It was energy and effort tonight for us," Marion said. "We were resilient, we kept coming, and we did what we needed to do to get a win."
NOTES: Dallas opened its season on the road for the first time since 2007. The Mavericks had opened the season against the Lakers three previous times, losing all three games. ... Howard was called for a flagrant foul in the third quarter for hammering Brand on an open shot in the lane. ... Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Adam Levine, Jon Cryer and Los Angeles Galaxy stars David Beckham and Robbie Keane attended the game.
Irving, Varejao pace Cavaliers over Wizards 94-84
CLEVELAND — Anderson Varejao was already having the most prolific rebounding game of his career when he looked at the scoreboard and noticed he was close to his first triple-double.
One point, one assist was all he needed.
"I was like, 'Whoa, I wish I had a little bit more time,'" he said with a smile.
On a night when Cleveland unveiled its backcourt of the future, Varejao did a little bit of everything for the Cavaliers, who blew a 16-point lead in the second half before holding on and beating the short-handed Washington Wizards 94-84 on Tuesday night in the first game on the NBA schedule.
Playing his first home game after missing the final 41 last season with a broken wrist, Varejao had a career-high 23 rebounds. Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and rookie Dion Waiters added 17 for the Cavs, who needed big plays from Irving and Varejao in the final minutes to hold off the Wizards.
Varejao, the Cavs' 6-foot-11 frizzy-haired Brazilian bundle of energy, added nine points and had a career-high nine assists, two setting up dunks by Tristan Thompson in the last two minutes.
Irving, who typically dishes during the game, handed his teammate a big compliment afterward.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world just having somebody that you know what you're going to get from them every single night," Irving said of Varejao. "He almost had a triple-double, that's typical Andy."
Jordan Crawford scored 11 points to lead the Wizards, who were without star point guard John Wall, power forward Nene and forward Kevin Seraphin. Wall, the former No. 1 overall pick, is expected to be out until late November with a knee injury and the Wizards missed him badly as rookie guard Bradley Beal and AJ Price combined to shoot 4 of 21.
Beal scored eight points — all in the first half — and Emeka Okafor had 10 points. Washington coach Randy Wittman has high hopes for his young team, but he won't know what he has until he gets Wall and Nene, who is out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, on the court.
"That wasn't the team I've seen the last four weeks," Wittman said. "I watched them do things tonight that I didn't ever see these guys do. They (Cavaliers) dictated the tempo, which I thought was key. We can't get beat up on the boards like we did (54-39) or shoot free throws like we did (12 of 20) and have a realistic chance to win."
Irving, the NBA's reigning rookie of the year, began his second season with a strong performance alongside Waiters, a surprising No. 4 overall pick by the Cavs. Waiters didn't start a game at Syracuse, but coach Byron Scott has been impressed with his progress and wanted to pair his two young guards together from the outset.
They played well in spurts, combining for 46 points and eight rebounds. But the duo made enough mistakes to keep Scott from giving them too much freedom.
"Dion is starting to understand what we're doing," said Scott, who has been demanding of Waiters during training camp and the exhibition season. "I thought he did a good job."
The Cavs seemed to be on their way to a relatively routine win, but in a league where players are fond of saying "every team makes a run," the Wizards made theirs.
Down 61-45 in the third quarter and looking flat, Washington opened the fourth with its 14-0 spurt, taking a 76-74 lead when Jannero Pargo drained a 3-pointer from the corner. The Wizards rallied while Irving was getting some rest, and it wasn't long before Scott sent his young star back in to help restore order.
"I told Kyrie at the eight-minute mark that we have two timeouts left," Scott said. "He patted me on the leg and said, 'Don't worry about it Coach, I got it.'"
Irving's driving layup in traffic gave Cleveland an 82-80 lead, and he calmly stepped up and drained a 21-foot jumper to put the Cavaliers ahead 86-80.
With the Cavs up by four, Varejao fed Thompson underneath for a dunk to make it 88-84. Crawford made two free throws for Washington, and on Cleveland's next possession, Irving made a spin move in the lane and passed it to Varejao, who then upstaged his slick passing teammate with a feed to Thompson for another dunk.
Irving then rebounded a miss by the Wizards and it was his turn to pick up an assist to Thompson.
Scott was thrilled with the way his young team — with an average age of 24.9 years — responded down the stretch.
"They showed a lot of heart," he said. "They showed a lot of guts."
Notes: According to the Cavs, Varejao is the first player to get at least nine points, 23 rebounds and nine assists in a season opener since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967. ... Thompson finished with five assists. He had just 27 last season. ... Washington was only 8 of 32 on 3-pointers, and missed some big ones in the fourth. ... Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden, a big Oklahoma City fan, and RB Trent Richardson, sat behind the Cavs' bench and they got a huge ovation when shown on the giant scoreboard in the second quarter. They sat with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in the second half. ... Before the game, Gilbert said he regrets guaranteeing the Cavs would win an NBA title before LeBron James, who left Cleveland as a free agent in 2010. "Looking back now, that probably was not the most brilliant thing I've ever done in my life," Gilbert said.