MIAMI -- Defending an NBA title is not easy.
Winning the first game of the following season is no walk in the park, either.
The emotions of opening night interspersed with the feelings that come about in receiving an NBA championship ring can be a bit overwhelming. The Celtics certainly hope that's the case tonight when they open on the road against a Heat team that will receive their championship rings prior to the game.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers knows all too well how challenging it can be to tip the hat one more time in acknowledgment of the previous season's success, and to follow that up with a game that is often against one of the teams you rolled over to win that title.
After Boston's 2008 title, they opened the following season at home against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers with a hard-earned 90-85 win.
It was a game that Rivers was pleasantly surprised that the C's were able to win.
"I thought we were going to get destroyed," Rivers recalled. "It was a great (ring) ceremony, but when Paul (Pierce) started crying I turned to one of my assistant coaches and said, 'We have no chance tonight.' "
Banner 17 came more than 20 years after the Celtics' previous title, so it was understandable how emotions would be all over the place that night.
However, the Heat aren't nearly as far removed from their previous championship which came in 2006.
"Miami has the advantage of going through it twice," Rivers said.
After they won the franchise's first title in 2006, they proceeded to get blown out on ring night by the Chicago Bulls 108-66. Last season began for the Heat in Dallas on their ring night, with the road team once again finding success as Miami prevailed, 105-94.
Because of those experiences, Rivers said, "they'll be a little more prepared than the average ring team."
Heat players and coaches are well aware of the struggles the home team often has on ring night.
"We want to honor and respect this night in the ceremony, to be able to raise that banner in front of our fans," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "It took a tremendous amount of work collectively to accomplish that. We don't want to diminish that."
Spoelstra added: "We don't want to celebrate that and stink up the joint in the most important thing, which is the game."