Heat get rings, top Celtics in season opener

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Heat get rings, top Celtics in season opener

From Comcast SportsNetMIAMI (AP) -- LeBron James got cramps, Ray Allen was snubbed and Dwyane Wade was steaming.None of that spoiled the Miami Heat mood on ring night.Wade scored 29 points, James finished 26 points and 10 rebounds while missing much of the second half because of cramps in both legs, and the reigning NBA champion Heat beat the Boston Celtics 120-107 on Tuesday night in the season opener for both teams.There were actual fireworks before the game to close the ceremony where the Heat got their championship rings and raised their title banner. There also were plenty of figurative fireworks late, first with Boston almost digging out of a 19-point hole and, after the outcome was decided, Rajon Rondo flagrantly fouling Wade by wrapping his arms around his neck on a drive.In the end, though, the first Celtics-Heat matchup of this season was like the final one of last season -- with Miami winning."It was good to cap this night off with a win," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It was an emotional time for all of us in our organization."Even for the newcomers, like Allen. He scored 19 points -- needing only seven field goal attempts -- in his first game with Miami since leaving Boston over the summer. Chris Bosh had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Miami.Allen got chants from the Heat crowd, which is nothing new. Except this time, they were positive."Never thought I'd hear that here," Allen said.Paul Pierce scored 23 points, Rondo finished with 20 points and 13 assists, and Leandro Barbosa scored 16 for Boston. The Celtics, who lost to the Heat in last season's Eastern Conference finals, were not on the court for the ring ceremony.They almost wrecked the festive mood with a late comeback.An 11-2 run late in the fourth quarter got Boston within 111-107 on Courtney Lee's layup with 2:09 left. That was the last Celtics' hurrah -- Bosh scored the game's next seven points, sealing it for Miami."I thought they were the aggressor the whole game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "They got on the floor where they wanted to get on the floor. They took us out of stuff that they wanted to."Rashard Lewis scored 10 points for Miami, which held on even while James, last season's MVP of both the regular season and NBA Finals, was in the locker room for the second time because of the cramps, first in his right leg and then his left."It's not an all-the-time thing," James said. "I'm not too worried about it."The Heat got their championship rings from owner Micky Arison before the game, then watched the banner get hoisted to the rafters. More emotion came late, when Wade drove past Rondo -- and the Celtics guard grabbed Wade around the neck. Wade appeared as though he was ready to throw the ball at Rondo in retaliation, and stopped himself."I thought he hooked me," Rondo said.Wade had a different opinion."It was a punk play by him," Wade said. "The league will take care of it. He clotheslined me, with two hands."So Rondo raised eyebrows by putting hands on Wade. Kevin Garnett made news by not offering his hand to Allen.As Allen entered the game for the first time, he trotted toward the Boston bench, exchanging a handshake, embrace and a few words with Rivers, who hasn't hidden his displeasure about his former shooting guard's decision to sign with Miami and didn't sound certain before the game how he would react when he saw Allen in Miami colors. Allen then briskly shook hands with a few assistant coaches.But when Allen tried to engage Garnett, the mutual pleasantries ended. Allen tapped Garnett on the shoulder as he sat on the Boston bench; Garnett didn't even flinch, staring straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge the gesture in any way."I was just trying to focus as much as I could. I am such an intense person," Garnett said. "It was a blank. Obviously he's on the other side. It's time to play the game, man."Allen didn't seem flustered. His first shot in a Miami uniform was -- what else? -- a corner 3-pointer, which swished."He was by himself in the corner," Rivers said. "You'd think we'd know better."Miami controlled much of the first half, taking a 62-54 lead after James went by Pierce and Garnett for a two-handed dunk and yell for the crowd.The first Heat angst of the season came in the third quarter, when James walked slowly to the bench after a timeout with 4:40 remaining, favoring his right leg and then headed out the tunnel toward the locker room.When he left, the Miami lead was 79-70.When he returned to open the fourth quarter, the lead was 93-76. The Heat scored the final eight points of the third, with Bosh, Allen, Mario Chalmers and Lewis all scoring in the final 2:17 to give the Heat their biggest lead of the game.James -- who was dealing with a cramping issue, like he experienced at times in last season's NBA Finals -- opened the fourth quarter with a jumper to extend the run to 10-0, and Miami seemed well on its way. But he returned to the locker room a short time later, the cramps having flared up again."Once you start cramping, there's nothing you can do about it," James said.Jeff Green, who had season-ending surgery for an aortic aneurysm last January, played in a game that counts for the first time since May 11, 2011 -- also in Miami, when the Heat ousted the Celtics from that season's playoffs. Green finished with three points in 23 minutes.NOTES:Wade passed the 15,000-point mark for his career early in the second quarter, becoming the 123rd player in NBA history to reach that mark, according to STATS LLC. ... Rondo had at least 10 assists for the 25th straight regular-season game. ... The Celtics allowed 62 points in the first half; they gave up 62 or more only seven times in 379 regular-season and playoff games over the past four seasons. ... Miami players wore sneakers with gold somewhere in the color scheme; James' were primarily gold -- in honor of the ring -- and trimmed in white and red.

Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

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Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

BROOKLYN -- For the second year in a row, Boston's franchise goaltender and $7 million man Tuukka Rask couldn’t physically answer the bell for one of the biggest games of the year.

Rask was unable to go Saturday night when the Bruins faced the Islanders at the Barclays Center because of a lower body injury. Anton Khudobin stepped in and helped the B's to a 2-1 victory that snapped their four-game losing streak, moved them past the Isles back in the second wild-card spot, and enabled them to close to two points behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

It wasn't quite the same as last year, when Rask was too sick to play the win-or-go-home regular-season finale against Ottawa. The Bruins got shellacked in that one and missed the playoffs. There are still two weeks left in the regular season, so Saturday didn't have the same do-or-die consequences.

But Khudobin, who made 18 saves, gave Boston some energy and enthusiasm in the crease with the same kind of battling, chaotic style that Tim Thomas exhibited. Watching Khudobin throw a double-pad stack at John Tavares on a late third-period Islanders power play in a one-goal game was a clear sign that Rask wasn’t in net, and his unconventional technique perhaps distracted Tavares enough that he ripped his open shot off the crossbar and away from harm.

Afterward interim coach Bruce Cassidy fervently sang Khudobin’s praises, and almost seemed to be shedding some light on what they aren’t always getting from their top goaltender in these crunch-time games.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots," he said. "And you kill that many penalties. (The Islanders failed to score on six power plays.) It was a nice building-block win for us.

"I loved [Khudobin’s] performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

So now the Bruins have a choice about what to do Tuesday against the Predators. And the hope here is that Khudobin gets a second straight start, whether or not Rask is healthy enough to go.

Khudobin has won five games in a row and has a 1.98 goals-against average and a  .920 save percentage since the All-Star break. Rask, in contrast, has an inflated 2.91 GAA and .892 save percentage in that span.

More than that, however, there’s a real issue developing with Rask and how much trust the Bruins can have in him when the games matter most. He gave up a couple of bad goals in the loss to the Lightning on Thursday night, and afterwards looked like the boy who lost his dog when answering questions with a soft, unsure voice that began to trail off when it came time to accept responsibility for his part in the ugly defeat.

The downcast expression was a concern, and it certainly seemed like Rask was rattled mentally as much as he was beaten physically after that defeat.

So the overriding question now is: What good is a No. 1 goaltender if he doesn’t play like one when it matters most?

Maybe Rask is seriously injured and we’ll find out after the season that he needs hip surgery, and was far less than 100 percent all year. Or maybe playing three games in four nights was too much of a strain, and he needed the weekend away from the ice after the unavoidable bump in workload.

The fact that the Bruins expect Rask to practice on Monday, however, really takes some of the oomph out of the serious-injury argument, and makes one wonder how he can practice Monday after not playing in the biggest game of the season on Saturday.

Maybe Rask was angered by Cassidy calling him out by saying the team “needs more from him” after the goalie's lackadaisical performance in the loss to Tampa Bay, and that played into the goalie’s sudden case of “lower body discomfort” on Friday after saying Thursday he felt fine physically.

Maybe Rask is frazzled emotionally after the burden of carrying the team at times this season, and he needed a few days away from the ice to recollect himself and get ready for the crucial seven remaining games on the schedule.

Still, the Bruins can’t look at Rask as someone they can rely on when the chips are down for the rest of this season. That cost them last year, and shame on the Bruins if they again make the mistake of putting all of their playoff eggs in the Rask basket.

Perhaps it’s time to even start thinking about other goaltending options this summer. Rask will no longer have full no-trade protection once the season is over. He's been inconsistent at best in the biggest moments over the years, and the B’s shouldn’t pay a goaltender like he’s one the best if he isn’t when the late-season heat is on.

But that’s a question to ponder in a month or two.

For now, the Bruins should ride the hot goalie -- Khudobin, who showed Saturday he's willing to battle his butt off -- and let Cool Hand Tuukka cool his heels on the bench while recuperating from whatever it is that kept him out of a gigantically important game in Brooklyn this weekend.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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