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Photos: Slide show of Opening Night between Celtics and Heat 10.27.10 at 11:25 am ET
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Click here, or on the image below, to launch a slide show of photos from Celtics Opening Night. Ray Allen led the offense with 20 points and drilled a clutch jumper late while Rajon Rondo dished out 17 assists as the Celtics played smothering defense to spoil the highly anticipated debut of LeBron James with the Heat. The Celtics won, 88-80, Tuesday night at TD Garden in the NBA season-opener.

Paul Pierce and LeBron James

Paul Pierce takes a hit from LeBron James. (AP)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat,
Irish Coffee: Rondo Hall of Fame-bound? at 10:54 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

In the first NBA game since 1969 to feature 13 former All-Stars, it was the most recent player to join that list whose star shone brightest.

In his fourth year in the league, Rajon Rondo emerged as an Eastern Conference All-Star, so what’s in store for the Celtics point guard’s fifth season — and beyond?

“He’s got a good chance of being a Hall of Fame-type player,” Jermaine O’Neal said after last night’s 88-80 opening-night victory against the Miami Heat.

High praise? Sure. But Jermaine isn’t the only O’Neal heaping praise upon Rondo after playing just one regular-season game alongside him.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Shaq said of playing with Rondo, who finished with 17 assists last night. “He’s the perfect point guard. He knows where all his guys are. He led us out there, and he didn’t let us panic on the floor. Great player.”

Since entering the league, Rondo’s point, assist and steal averages have risen each season, culminating in last year’s 13.7 points, 9.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. His rebounding numbers had also risen each season until a slight dip in 2009-10 put him at 4.4 per.

Is it ridiculous to assume Rondo could average 15 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and two-and-a-half steals per contest in 2010-11?

Those statistical averages would compare favorably with the fifth-season numbers of the four most recent point guard greats (all either HOFers or HOF locks) — Steve Nash (15.6 points, 7.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals), Jason Kidd (11.6, 9.0, 4.8, 2.4), Gary Payton (20.6, 7.1, 3.4, 2.5) and John Stockton (17.1, 13.6, 3.0, 3.2).

And Shaq agrees, especially after Rondo found him with a couple floating assists around the rim last night. “The last six or seven years I really haven’t had a point guard like that,” said Shaq, “but I’m just getting back to what I’m used to. I’m by the basket, and when he comes by the basket I just gotta be ready.”

If you’ll recall,  just two years ago, Shaq played one-and-a-half seasons with Nash himself.

Obviously, the most  glaring weakness in Rondo’s game is his shooting. Defenders point to the .500 field goal percentage in each of his last two seasons, but it’s his 3-point (24.4 percent in his career) and free throw shooting (63.0) that need improvement.

During the preseason, Rondo demonstrated a new-found knack to knock down the mid-range jumper, but he didn’t have that touch in the opener, finishing 2-of-9 from the field last night.

Nobody’s asking Rondo to have Nash’s 3-point (40.0 percent in his 5th season) and free-throw shooting (89.5 percent in Year 5) ability, but how about Payton’s (30.2 3-point FG and 71.6 FT in Y5)?

Kidd also started his career as a sub-.300 3-point and sub-.700 free-throw shooter. Since then, he made himself into a .425 3-point and .808 free-throw shooter last year in Dallas. All I’m saying is, there’s hope.

And if indeed Rondo emerges as a Hall of Fame-type player as J.O. alluded, that would mean the C’s current starting five would feature a full lineup of HOFers.

Not bad for a guy that joked in the video accompanying this blog that he might not still be in the NBA in 2012.

Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo shoots during the second half of Boston's 88-80 win over the Miami Heat in an NBA basketball game in Boston on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010.

Rajon Rondo helped Shaquille O'Neal get off on the right foot in his Celtics debut. (AP)

SHAQ’S CELTICS DEBUT

The Celtics got exactly what they hope for out of Shaq last night: nine points, seven rebounds and a block in 18 minutes. So, how did The Big Shamrock feel about his first night as a Celtic?

“I just wanted to come out and just play,” said Shaq. “I had a couple early-game jitters. I missed a couple chippies, but Rondo … gave it back to me. We’re all gonna get better, and I’m gonna get better. It’s gonna be a great year.”

Shaq talked to the media for about five minutes after the game. Here are a few highlights:

  • On the opening-night hype: “We just wanted to come out and win our first game, and that’s what we did. We let y’all worry about all the hoopla and all that. We knew that we wanted to come play a solid game, and we knew if we did what we wanted to do then we could get a win. This game is over. We’ve got a game tomorrow, and we just want to be 2-0.”
  • On Ray Allen’s clutch 3-point shot in the final minute: “Ray is one of the greatest players ever to play the game — a great shooter. Doc (Rivers) drew up a play. It’s a play we practice all the time. We had many options, and that was one of our options. Ray Allen just did what he does — shoot the ball and make it.”
  • On Paul Pierce: “He’s a great player. I don’t think you guys give him enough media attention that all the other guys get, but he’s up there with the other two players over there (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade). He’s a great player, a great scorer, and his name should be mentioned more.”
  • On the Boston crowd: “Excellent. Electrifying. Magnetic. … It was great. It’s a great town. People here are anxious to get No. 18. It’s going to be like that all year, and we want to remain a dominant team at home.”
  • On starting 2-for-2 from the free-throw line: “I was leading the league? A thousand percent? That record got messed up pretty quick.”

REACTION FROM MIAMI

The fallout from the Miami media appears unanimous: Last night’s loss was the exception, not the rule. In fact, the Heat hype consensus is that they’re still the team to beat …

Greg Cote, Miami Herald columnist:

The gleaming Maserati, so gorgeous in the showroom, so perfect to look at, hit the road for the first time Tuesday night, and the engine hiccupped a little, and the brakes squealed some.

The ride is going to be fine. Needs some tinkering and tuning, that’s all.

If anything, Miami’s 88-80 loss to the Boston Celtics verified the Heat’s awesome potential more than cast the least bit of doubt on it.

See, the Heat is good enough to come this close being that bad.

Israel Gutierrez, Miami Herald columnist:

It’s reasonable to call this the most difficult regular-season test the Heat will experience all season.

And, yet, with less than a minute left, after playing as miserable a duration of basketball as this team might ever play all season, the Heat trailed by just three points and oh-so-close to ripping out the hearts of Celtics fans on opening night.

With all that in mind, it might be time to translate Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez‘s quote from several weeks ago into the language of basketball: There’s nothing wrong with going 81-1.

Dave Hyde, Florida Sun Sentinel columnist:

In their first quarter together, the Heat’s Dream Team scored fewer points (nine) than in any Heat quarter last year. Where have you gone, Quentin Richardson?

That’s why the Heat’s loss to Boston 88-80 actually was worse news for the rest of the NBA. Go ahead and laugh a little more at that one, if you want.

But let me go further: This game was the very worst news the rest of the league could have received. There’s really no other way to assemble what happened in this Heat opener in another context.

Similarly, after the game, LeBron James tweeted, “Rome wasn’t built in a day! Work in progress. On to the next one.” The funny thing is — as Rondo points out in the video accompanying this blog — this Celtics team literally built itself in Rome, during a trip to Italy during the 2007 preseason.

No, one game won’t mean much in the standings come April, but last night’s game was about more than just the one day. It was about preparation, unity, familiarity — Ubuntu.

After all, “The Decision” happened more than four months ago. What have the Heat been doing since July? Perhaps spending one too many days checking out the talents on South Beach.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, NBA, Rajon Rondo
Ray Allen, C’s knew what was coming at 2:21 am ET
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The Heat played right into the hands of the Celtics all night long — and right into the teeth of their defense.

LeBron James finished with a game-high 31 points, but he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to make only 17-of-48 shots.

And Ray Allen, who defended Wade much of the night and held him to 4-of-16 shooting, explained exactly how the Celtics were able to defend Miami in an 88-80 win in the season-opener at TD Garden.

The Celtics knew coming in that with James and Wade, the Heat were going to run isolation plays all night to try and get their two scoring stars going.

“We had a great swarm,” Allen said. “Everybody was in position. We talked on defense. We knew every play they were running so when they ran it, [Rajon] Rondo was right there, there was no gap. There was nowhere for LeBron to go and then we were coming back out for the shooters. There was one stretch where we were letting those corner 3s [be taken] and we have to do a better job of letting them have those shots.”

Then there was this from Glen Davis, who along with Shaquille O’Neal was making life miserable in the paint for the Heat all night.

“We had seen every thing they run. and they run a lot of iso,” Davis said of isolation plays for James and Wade. “And the one thing about iso is you can guard that by throwing two or three guys at them.”

Miami, which made just 11-of-41 shots in the first half, finished the game shooting a measly 36.5 percent, connecting on 27-of-74 attempts. The two players primarily responsible for guarding James were Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels. Allen was on Wade and Garnett drew Bosh.

“I thought we’re a defensive team that can score the basketball,” Kevin Garnett said. “Paul has his hands full, I have my hands full, Ray Allen had his hands full. Those three are going to be a force to be reckoned with. With know that. Very talented guys, but it’s not one, two, three individuals that make a team. It definitely sets the foundation.

“But for the most part every time we touch the floor it’s about getting better. I thought tonight we did just that. We’ve got a lot of room to improve, but it’s the first night, a lot of expectations on tonight. But for the most part I thought we were solid enough to win, and we want to be better at home. What a way to start the year, with a win at home.”

The Celtics will try to continue their “swarm” when they play their first road game of the year on Wednesday night in Cleveland, serving as the opposition in the Cavaliers’ first game without LeBron James.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James
Fast Break: Celtics cool Heat hype 10.26.10 at 10:21 pm ET
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The Celtics held the Heat to nine first-quarter points, and Ray Allen nailed a clutch 3-point shot to snap a late 10-0 Miami run and push the Celtics’ lead back to six in the final minute. Allen’s shot from the corner ended any Heat visions of a comeback from a 19-point deficit, and allowed Boston to claim an 88-80 opening-night win.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Rondo to Shaq: Just four minutes into Tuesday night’s game, Rajon Rondo drove, drew three defenders and lobbed the ball to Shaquille O’Neal, who threw it down with ease. It was more than just two points.

Obviously, Shaq takes up a ton of space around the basket, which means Rondo has a larger area to which he can toss the ball without fearing interference. That’s could translate into a heckuva lot more assists for Rondo and a heckuva lot of easy buckets for Shaq this season.

In almost 12 first-half minutes, the Big Shamrock finished with six points but would have had 10 if not for a pair of missed bunnies.

The Rondo-to-Shaq combo also exposed the Heat’s biggest weaknesses: the point guard and center spots. The two Celtics simply owned Heat starters Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony. Many critics had serious concerns about “The Others” in Miami, and, for now, those apprehensions appear legit.

2. Interior Defense: The Celtics held the Heat to 12 first-half points in the paint on just 6-of-16 shooting. What’s more, the C’s grabbed 21 first-half defensive rebounds, allowing only two second-chance points en route to a 45-30 lead at the half.

The Celtics’ Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett held the Heat’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to just 7-of-27 shooting in the first half.

Shaq and Rondo’s dominance of Arroyo and Anthony extended beyond the offensive end. Not worried about their defensive assignments (Arroyo/Anthony combined for two first-half shots), the Celtics duo could sag off and help out on Miami’s trio of stars.

3. Ray Allen: With all the talk about how Garnett looks as healthy as he’s been since arriving in Boston and how Pierce showed up in terrific shape, it was easy to forget to mention Allen.

Maybe it’s because Allen always looks as though he’s in top shape, but the C’s shooting guard looked like he was in midseason form on Tuesday, scoring 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting (including 5-of-8 from downtown). His final 3-pointer of the night came with 50 seconds remaining. It snapped a 10-point Heat run that had cut the lead to 83-80 in the waning minutes.

Allen also did a nice job keeping up with Wade on the defensive end, limiting the Heat guard to 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. Apparently, Standing in the Way of LeBron James: Twice — once in each half — Pierce appeared to draw a charge on LeBron, who was barreling down the lane, shoulder lowered, towards the basket. And twice referees called Pierce for the blocking foul.

On the second foul, Pierce came down hard on his lower back. He limped to the sideline as the Celtics called timeout, and then went to the locker room clutching his side behind trainer Ed Lacerte.

A report came down that Pierce was out of the game with back spasms — return unknown. But he did return, finishing the night with 19 points.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was none too happy with both blocking calls and let the refs know his frustration.

2. Lacking a Killers’ Mentality: The Celtics led, 63-50, with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The C’s had their chances to end the game then and there, but instead saw their lead dwindle as they settled for jump shots. Meanwhile, the Heat closed the quarter on a 7-0 run (thanks to four points from LeBron), cutting the gap to a manageable 63-57 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.

Likewise, in the fourth quarter, the Celtics held an 83-70 advantage with four minutes remaining. A few ill-advised shots taken too early in the shot clock led to a 10-point Heat run over the next three minutes that would’ve been 13 if not for a missed wide-open 3-pointer by LeBron.

3. Perimeter Defense: While the Celtics’ inability to get out on the wings defensively didn’t hurt them in the first half, the Heat got plenty of wide-open looks. Eddie House and James Jones missed a string of 3-point attempts in the first quarter. But Celtics fans likely understood that House wasn’t going to keep missing those.

In the second half, House and Jones — along with LeBron — finished 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.

Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA
The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (7 of 7) at 2:28 pm ET
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NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.

We’ll finish the seven-part series with five forecasts from some of the best Boston Celtics bloggers around (Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6) …

Boston Celtics
BOSTON CELTICS
by Jeff Clark, Celtics Blog

Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal smiles as he jokes with teammate Kevin Garnett, right, while sitting on the bench against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Manchester, N.H. , Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010.

Would a healthy Kevin Garnett (right) and Shaquille O'Neal be enough to push the C's to the title? (AP)

ON THE CELTICS: When you are six minutes away from an NBA championship, what do you do to make up those six minutes in the next year?

You try to get a little bit better. The Celtics are hoping that their gains are greater than their losses.

Is Kevin Garnett‘s improved health enough to make up for the creeping age of this roster? Are Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal enough to make up for the loss of Kendrick Perkins for half a season (at best)? Is Delonte West enough of an offensive upgrade to make up for the loss of the surprisingly steady defense of Tony Allen?

If the Celtics can stay a little bit healthier, maybe they can win a few more games to give them more home games in the playoffs. Maybe, just maybe, that will be the little edge they need to make up those six minutes and raise another banner.

 Boston Celtics
BOSTON CELTICS
by John Karalis, Red’s Army

Boston Celtics center Glen Davis smiles as he cools off under a fan while iciing down his knees after their practice at NBA basketball training camp at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. , Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010.

Glen Davis leads what many consider to be the best bench in the NBA. (AP)

ON THE CELTICS: With all the talk of what other teams have done this offseason, few people have paid a lot of attention to the fact that the Celtics — a team that was within four minutes of a title — addressed their two most pressing needs: Size and depth.

Now, the Boston Celtics boast what is probably the deepest team in the NBA.

Fast forward to the playoffs – since it would take the most catastrophic of events for this team to miss the playoffs – and the C’s will start their usual rotation of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, KG and Perk.

That means you have Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal, Glen Davis, Delonte West, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels coming off the bench.

A team of those six guys would challenge for the last playoff spot in the East … and they’re backing up a starting five that, as Doc Rivers loves to say, still hasn’t lost a playoff series.

The Celtics’ team chemistry has been remarkable. So, questions as to whether these guys can coexist are already answered.

They matched up well against most Eastern teams already, so the added size will only give the C’s more guys to throw at Dwight Howard.

The added depth will be able to keep up with Chicago or Atlanta. And the combined size and depth are the perfect counter to a heavily front-loaded Heat team.

Ultimately, this Celtics team has too much for the rest of the league. Even if a couple of guys get banged up, they have the depth to overcome it and properly rest guys for the playoffs.

Miami will be really good. The Celtics — with their experience, depth and size — will be just a little better, and they’ll get that 18th banner this year.

Boston Celtics
BOSTON CELTICS

by Jay King, Celtics Town

Boston Celtics guard Delonte West runs sprints after their practice at NBA basketball training camp at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. , Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010.

The addition of Delonte West only bolsters an already deep Celtics team. (AP)

ON THE CELTICS: Before the preseason started, I predicted that the Celtics were destined to lose to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were tough enough by themselves. Once Pat Riley paired them together and sprinkled a little Chris Bosh on top, they became the team to beat — regardless of who won the Eastern Conference last season.

Then the preseason happened, I got to see the Celtics play in real life rather than on paper, and I’m no longer convinced they’ll fall to the Heat (Yes, I realize it was just the preseason; bear with me).

I expected many of the older Celtics to digress this season. Instead, almost every Celtic looks better than last year.

Pierce entered camp in great shape; Garnett’s healthy; Delonte was a perfect fit; Marquis added confidence and perhaps an outside shot; Nate looks more comfortable after a full training camp; Davis has matured and potentially taken a leap; Rondo remained Rondo, only one year older and more experienced; Shaq has meshed far better than he ever did in Cleveland (I even saw him hedge a pick-and-roll last game); and Jermaine O’Neal’s addicted to the injured list.

Okay, maybe J.O.’s preseason didn’t work out perfectly, but every other player — stunningly — looks to be improved from last season.

A lot of teams claim to be motivated by tough losses, but the Celtics took that motivation to a next level. They used the devastation from the Game That Must Not Be Named and channeled it into returning in great shape, with only one purpose — winning an NBA title.

One through 12, the Celtics are the NBA’s most talented team. If healthy, they’ll win the East and then take down the Lakers in the NBA Finals. If healthy.

Boston Celtics
BOSTON CELTICS
by Brandon Paul, Gino’s Jungle

Von Wafer's battle for the 15th spot says a lot about the C's depth.

ON THE CELTICS: When asked by WEEI for a brief preview of the Boston Celtics 2010-11 season, the first thing I had to do was run to my desk and grab that fashionable pair of green goggles I’ve worn throughout my time as a Celtics fan.

Now that I took care of that, here’s what I think will go down this year for the hometown boys in green:

The Celtics are back and better than ever this season. After watching six preseason games, the amount of depth on this team cannot be compared to that of any other team in recent memory.

Von Wafer, a guy who had a solid tenure in Houston, was being talked about as a guy that could be cut from this team. That right there says something.

Of course, the team is going to undergo injuries and other hiccups throughout the course of the regular season that may draw some criticism, but if this Celtics team remains healthy come playoff time nobody (not even the Miami Heat) can match their depth and playoff experience.

For that reason, I’m predicting a solid regular season record of 52-30, a healthy team going into the playoffs and … wait for it … wait for it … Banner 18.

Boston Celtics
BOSTON CELTICS
by Brian Robb, Celtics Hub

Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, center, talks with teammates Paul Pierce, right, and Ray Allen during their practice at the team's training camp at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. , Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010.

One advantage the Celtics' Big 3 has over the Miami Heat's triumvirate: Continuity. (AP)

ON THE CELTICS: Continuity. I’m a big believer in it as far as the NBA goes.

You take a look at the teams that have made the NBA Finals in the last 20 years, and the vast majority have been seasoned squads — units that have played together for years; players who know each other inside and out — their strengths and flaws, where they will be on the floor, where they like to catch the ball and everything in between.

You can’t buy that kind of knowledge in free agency, and it’s the biggest edge the Celtics’ core will have over their competition next year — one that will ultimately lead them to the NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat obviously have more talent, and they will get their championship(s) down the road, but next year will be a learning experience once the playoffs roll around. And they’ll fall short against the Celtics.

An improved offense, more depth and a deep sense of urgency will be enough to get Boston back to the promised land — where they will earn redemption against the Lakers after coming up empty last year.

Thanks to all who participated in this year’s NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast.

Read More: blogs, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat
Video proof Kendrick Perkins is back – at least in practice at 12:38 pm ET
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WALTHAM — You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run.

In the NBA, you have to stand on a court before you can really begin think about getting back into a game following reconstructive knee surgery.

But as one can see from this video – filmed Monday at Celtics practice – Kendrick Perkins certainly looks the part as he appears to be in the best shape of his career, a clear sign he has done significant rehab work already following June’s rebuild of his right knee after it buckled and collapsed in Game 6 of the NBA finals, along with the Celtics’ hopes of banner No. 18.

Now, looking the part of a svelte, lean and mean big man, Perkins has hit the court and has started shooting short jumpers and free throws.

The big man is expected to be out until at least January following the repair of the ACL in his right knee.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, Los Angles Lakers, NBA
Doc Rivers: C’s just ‘other team that’s playing’ 10.25.10 at 8:43 pm ET
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WALTHAM — So finally, thankfully, mercifully no more hype – just the game.

Ever since the game was announced as part of the full NBA schedule on Aug. 10, news and sports outlets across the country and the globe circled Oct. 26 on their calendars as a “must-cover” event at Boston’s TD Garden.

Doc Rivers maintains those news and sports outlets won’t be in Boston Tuesday to see a great game but what they think will be one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

“All eyes will be on the game in Boston, but I think all eyes will really be on Miami. We’re the other team that’s playing and we’re just going to show up. But I’m sure everybody is there to see Miami.

“It’s opening night, it’s great. It’s opening night at home. We’ve had a lot of time to prepare for the game, which is nice, and we’re ready to play.”

Rivers said Monday that he feels confident his team is ready for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat on Tuesday at TD Garden.

And it’s fitting that James plays his first official game on the same court he played his last for the Cavaliers. But unlike Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last May 13, James will be playing alongside players named Wade and Bosh, even if those three played very little together in the preseason because of Wade’s nagging hamstring injury.

“I would say it probably hurts them more than it hurts us,” Rivers said. “It probably hurts both teams, not being able to scout them and see what exactly what they’re going to do when they’re all on the floor. You can make the case that not being able to practice at all [together] it may hurt them as much. I don’t think it matters. I guarantee you that Wade will have the ball a lot, so will LeBron and so will Bosh.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Doc Rivers, Dwyane Wade
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