Celtics 98, Heat 75

Preview | Box Score | Recap

BOSTON (AP)—The Boston Celtics were better without Antoine Walker than Miami was without Lamar Odom.

Paul Pierce scored 23 points and Boston made up for the absence of its longtime leader by placing six scorers in double figures Wednesday night, opening the season with a 98-75 victory over the Heat.

Playing without Walker, who was traded nine days before the opener, the Celtics got 15 points apiece from Vin Baker and Eric Williams, 12 each from Mike James and Raef LaFrentz and 10 from Tony Battie.

“You saw the emergence of a lot of guys,” said Pierce, who played 35 minutes and was the only Celtic to play more than 28. “There are a number of guys who are going to be able to showcase their talents.”

Eddie Jones had 22 points and eight rebounds for Miami, which was missing Odom. The centerpiece of the Heat’s offseason overhaul, Odom sprained his right ankle in the season opener on Tuesday, which Miami also lost.

“We knew they were banged up. We knew they were on a back-to-back game, so we tried to do everything we could to take their legs out of it,” Celtics coach Jim O’Brien said. “A lot of nice contributions. I can’t think of anybody that didn’t really contribute.”

In recent years, Pierce and Walker have accounted for a bigger share of their team’s points than any other NBA duo except Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. But Walker was dealt to Dallas along with Tony Delk for LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch and a first-round draft pick.

The theory behind the trade was that subtracting Walker’s sometimes dominating presence will get the others more involved in the game.

“The ball is moving a lot better. They don’t have one guy controlling the ball,” said Bimbo Coles, who finished last season with Boston and started this one with the Heat.

“I see the trade benefiting the Celtics. Not taking anything away from Antoine, but there will now be more scoring for the other guys on the team.”

LaFrentz didn’t start, but he played 28 minutes and added five rebounds and three blocked shots.

But the most pleasant surprise for the Celtics was Baker, who left the team in the middle of last season to check into an alcohol rehab center. He started and scored the first Celtics basket of the season, getting the ball beneath the hoop and muscling past Brian Grant for a layup.

Baker also had five rebounds before leaving in the final minute to a standing ovation.

“It’s the most special night of my career,” he said. “I’m just overwhelmed.”

The Celtics had a 49-39 lead at halftime and kept it in double figures for all but a few minutes in the third.

Jones scored seven consecutive Miami points to help the Heat pull to 65-58 with 4:04 left in the third. But Boston answered with a 12-0 run—gettingbaskets from four different players—to extend its lead to 19.

Notes

Boston wore white shoes. According to a Celtics spokesman, team patriarch Red Auerbach said he could not remember a time when the team’s shoes were not either green or black. “I don’t think Red likes them,” Williams said. “But we got a win with them.” … Pierce, the sole team captain since Walker’s trade, addressed the fans before the game. … Miami dropped to 8-6 in the FleetCenter. … Jones and Miami’s top draft pick, Dwyane Wade, were also injured in the first game, but they returned Wednesday. Wade sustained a hip pointer when he took a charge in the first half, and Jones sustained cuts ontwo fingers on his right hand.

Related Articles

Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Miami
E. Jones E. Jones
6-16,  22 Pts
8 Rebs, 1 Assists
 Boston
P. Pierce P. Pierce
8-15,  23 Pts
7 Rebs, 4 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists