MIAMI -- In what was billed to be a knockout battle between two Eastern Conference foes, Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers watched the Miami Heat deliver the hard punches.
The Heat beat the Celtics 120-107 in a high scoring Opening Night matchup. The defending champions received their rings prior to tip off and did not let the team they eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals spoil their evening.
"I really thought they took the fight to us most of the night," said Rivers. "I thought they were the more physical team, I thought they were mentally tougher than us, and I thought when we made our runs, they kept their composure. When they made their runs I didn't think we were good with our composure."
With the addition of a new starting shooting guard and a revamped bench, the Celtics are a work in progress. They knew there would be a learning curve getting everyone on the same page and in the right spots on the floor. But what they didn't account for was a lack of aggressiveness. Not after watching Game 7 film on autoloop, not with one of the most intense players in the NBA on the team.
"Obviously we're a new group together," said Kevin Garnett. "You've got to have some consistency with that, and obviously a new system and all this other stuff that we put in, continue to work on it. I think the more confidence we get, the better we'll be."
Captain Paul Pierce was not pleased with his team's performance in their first game. The Celtics have been founded in defense over the years and he would like them to stop their opponents with that foundation when faced with aggressive offensive runs.
"I just thought that was really the story of the night, our defensive struggles. That's not who we are," he said. "The way we defended tonight, we're not going to be a team that's going to give up 120 points. We gave up 30 points pretty much each and every quarter so we've got to establish our identity and who we are and who we're going to be and make a decision on that one the season because that's who we are. We're going to be a defensive team, we're going to stop teams from scoring, we're going to keep them out of transition, and we've got to be a team that shows resistance and be an enforcer out there. Tonight, we pretty much were on our heels the whole night."
Amid the disappointment of losing on Opening Night was the anticipation of the Celtics home opener on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks. The players are ready to move on and right their wrongs in game two of the season.
"We have to be more aggressive," said Jeff Green. "Play with more heart, plain and simple."