BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics kick off the 2012-13 NBA Season in Miami, where they get to watch the Heat raise their 2012 championship banner.
It will be a bitter sight for the Celtics, who fell to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals in seven games last year, losing two different potential clinchers in Games 6 and 7.
Just to add some fuel to the already-burning rivalry, Ray Allen signed with Miami in the offseason and has been spouting off about his time in Boston.
But do we expect any less from the NBA?
Here are four things to watch for as the Celtics and Heat open up the NBA season:
The Celtics and Heat flat out don’t like each other. LeBron James never had fun against the Celtics as a member of the Cavs, and now that Miami is the team that sent Boston home the last two postseasons, the rivalry has hit its high point.
Now sprinkle in the fact Ray Allen crossed over and joined the dark side, then spent the summer bashing his former team, Tuesday night has the makings of a heavyweight battle.
This is just the first of four regular-season meetings, and however many playoff battles we may see further down the road, so don’t expect all the punches to come out right away. But also don’t be surprised if an “inadvertent” elbow goes the way of someone on Miami, potentially even the former No. 20 — now donning his old 34 in Miami.
Which Lineup Does Doc Go With?
Doc Rivers said last week he has three different starting lineups to choose from, and will likely flip-flop on a nightly basis.
So, which one is he going to go with to start the season? Will Brandon Bass return as the C’s starting power forward, or will that go to either Jeff Green or rookie Jared Sullinger?
Rivers will likely go with what worked at the end of last year, with Brandon Bass taking his starting role for the season opener. He played well against the Heat in the playoffs, even drawing some of the LeBron James duties. But with a couple of different options, it will be interesting to see how he works in Green and Sullinger, not just throughout the season but specifically against the Heat.
That’s right, the Celtics have a bench. A pretty solid one at that.
Jason Terry has been winning over fans since he first held his Celtics jersey up, from getting Lucky with the NBA Championship trophy tattooed on his arm to asking fans for their autographs. This is all before they see him light it up on the court, giving the Celtics their much-needed scorer off the bench.
But it doesn’t stop at Terry. Jeff Green, back from missing last year after undergoing heart surgery, is seen as the key to the bench. Rookie Jared Sullinger will be given every opportunity to earn minutes with his big body in the paint, and even Darko Milicic could provide a few minutes of defense on a given night.
The Celtics have not had this depth in years. Now, it’s up to Doc to use them wisely in order to save aging veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and even Rajon Rondo from taking so many hard fouls, for a long postseason run.
The Celtics are expecting big things out of Jeff Green, even though he missed all of last season. But, given his play in the preseason, those expectations are understandable.
Green doesn’t look like someone who underwent heart surgery and missed an entire season. He’s been explosive running down the floor, and should give the second unit a huge boost — when he isn’t in with the starters.
He struggled in his half-season with the Celtics two years ago, especially against the Heat in the playoffs, but it looks like things are clicking for the fifth-year forward. That will go a long way in Boston’s success, not only Tuesday night, but throughout the season.