Celtics

Blakely: Celtics loss to Heat proves they're still a work in progress

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Blakely: Celtics loss to Heat proves they're still a work in progress

MIAMI There was no spilled blood or mangled body parts at America Airlines Arena as the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat kicked off the first chapter of what should be yet another brutal annual rivalry Tuesday night that ended with a 120-107 Celtics loss.

It was just the first of many battles to be waged between these foes, but there was no mistaking that this game meant more to all involved than it being just one of 82 games which they have been trying to sell folks on for weeks.

Nobody is buying that.

The Heat were out to prove that they were a wiser, smarter bunch than the franchise's first title winner in 2006 that opened defense of their crown by getting smashed by the Chicago Bulls in the opener.

And the Celtics were set on establishing that their depth, experience and all those cut-and-paste small ball lineups Doc Rivers can use, would truly be "lethal" in the games that really mattered.

However in their first game, the C's second unit managed to be outscored by the Miami backups, 32-29.

And during a stretch early in the third quarter, Miami pushed its lead to double digits with both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the bench.

"That should never happen," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "You can see they're ahead of us in continuity and all that."

And that lack of continuity is among the many reasons why the Celtics, while disappointed, are far from discouraged.

"We're not where we want to be," said C's newcomer Jason Terry. "But we will eventually."

It was refreshing after the game that most of the focus was on the actual game played, and not all the various subplots that had been dissected in the weeks leading up to the season opener.

Aside from a few hard fouls and what appeared to be some lingering hard feelings, the game was relatively free of drama.

The only moments where the tension was clearly noticeable came in the first quarter when Ray Allen tapped the shoulder of Kevin Garnett who was on the C's bench at the time, and Garnett ignored him.

"You guys know KG," Allen told a handful of Boston media. "Did you expect him to react? Kevin, he's an intense competitor. On the bench, he's in a different world; he's in a different zone. The five years I played with him, you have to respect that."

But breaking down whatever reasonsissues KG had for doing - or in this case, not doing anything - is pointless.

The C's have bigger, more important issues to worry about.

Doc Rivers had expressed concerns about his defense throughout the preseason, and they were in full blown, nowhere-to-be-found mode against a Heat team that racked up 93 points in just three quarters.

"That's not who we are; the way we defended tonight," said Paul Pierce.

All those small ball lineups that Doc Rivers loves to unleash, all came up small most of the game.

Jeff Green, arguably the best player for the C's in the preseason, was a non-factor and far too often looked lost, confused and when guarding LeBron James, flat-out abused.

"It all starts on the defensive end," Green said. "I didn't feel I was as aggressive on the defensive end as I should have been."

He wasn't alone.

Defense. Small ball challenges. Lots of first-half turnovers.

Yes, it was the first of 82 regular season games.

But this one means more not because of the outcome, but the opportunity it presents.

"Tonight was a good measuring stick for us," Pierce said. "We played against a team that's the best team in the NBA; they are the champs. There's a good chance for us to see where we're at. We got a lot of work to do. Obviously it's Game 1. We're not going to be the same team. As the year goes on, we understand it's a work in progress."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Kyrie Irving’s struggles, not having Gordon Hayward, and the Celtics losing for the 2nd time in as many nights.

6:31 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the message delivered by Hayward to the fans before the game, what was going on with Kyrie’s shot, and why they failed in stopping The Greek Freak.

10:33 - Albert Breer joins BST to preview the Falcons/Patriots Sunday night game and if Atlanta is in the middle of a Super Bowl hangover.

15:40 - In a new game called On The Clock, each person gets 40 seconds to rant on their selected subject including if Red Sox fans can root for the Yankees if the playoffs and how painful the Bruins season will be. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics 'don’t have time for square one' moving on without Hayward

Celtics 'don’t have time for square one' moving on without Hayward

BOSTON – When Kyrie Irving asked Cleveland to trade him this summer, he did so in part to be more of a navigator when it comes to charting out the rest of his basketball career.

But he knows for him to achieve the kind of individual and team success that he wants, he can’t do it alone.

And that maybe more than anything else, is why Irving has struggled in these first two games as far as shooting the ball.

In Boston’s first two games – both losses – Irving has averaged 19.5 points, 4.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds. Those are decent numbers but pale in comparison to what the 25-year-old has been able to do most of his NBA career.

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And while the team is committed to moving on and focus on winning the next game, there’s no getting around the emotional tug they all feel towards Hayward.

“You can throw as many emotions in there as you want, man,” Irving said. “We know how much G (Gordon Hayward) meant to this team and means to this team. Without him on the floor creating those opportunities we were going over in practice, and we saw in preseason and in the first game, that’s a big void to fill. When you think of it in that aspect, of course you want to be frustrated and disappointed. I’m pretty sure that’s not what G wants. So, for us, you just have to continue to exude confidence in the young guys and be ready to step up to the plate. It’s going to be even higher expectations on our guys in this locker room now to try and fill that hole that G (Hayward) left for us. As one of the leaders on this team, it’s my job to pick us up, as well as with Brad and the team with all the guys. We have to look each other in the eyes and know what to expect every single night.”

That’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you consider how quickly things changed for the Celtics at least in the short term with Hayward’s energy.

“I just … as you can see its’ not an ideal situation,” Irving said. “So, as cliché as it is, everybody is probably going to say that’s life. But it is, man. [expletive] happens. Excuse my language. But it does, man. The individual that we have in Gordon, he’s very special. He’s going to fight like hell to get back on the floor. I know he’s already … there’s a fire burning inside of him. You see the amount of support he got. That should tell you the type of person he is. Not only to the Boston Celtics but to the rest of the league. We want him to get back healthy but we all understand that his health comes first. He’s going to do everything possible to get back on the floor and it’s our job to lift him up.”

Irving was asked whether the team would need to go back to Square One due to Hayward’s injury which will keep him out indefinite at this point.

“No. We don’t have time for square one,” Irving said. “I can tell you that right now. We don’t have time to go back to square one. It’s time to just figure it out, moment to moment, and we’ll be alright. I’ve had the unique opportunity to be in some situations that test your character and this is one of those times.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE