The new-look Boston Celtics play their home opener against a familiar foe Friday night, facing the Miami Heat for the first time since Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference final.
After the teams split four regular-season meetings in 2022-23, Miami won the seven-game playoff series to advance to its seventh NBA Finals.
Both teams earned season-opening victories on Wednesday. Boston used newcomer Kristaps Porzingis’ 30 points – the most ever in a Celtics debut, including a key 3-pointer to cap a late, 9-0 run – to down the Knicks 108-104 in New York.
The 7-foot-3 Porzingis became the first NBA player to log 30 points, five 3-pointers (5-for-9), and four blocked shots in a debut game, though he has amassed those totals a record three times in his career.
“He just makes us that much more dynamic, obviously, with his size, ability to shoot, make plays off the dribble,” teammate Jayson Tatum said. “When they double me late, make the right play, find an open man. Obviously he can shoot from wherever. … He’s really, really good. We’re lucky to have him.”
Five-time All-Defensive Team selection Jrue Holiday had nine points, four rebounds and three blocks in his first game since being acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers. Holiday originally went to Portland in the deal that sent Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Tatum led the way with 34 points and added 11 rebounds and four assists for the Celtics, who now turn their attention toward replicating last season’s success at home, where they were 32-9.
This year, though, they hope to change the ending.
“We have to be the toughest, most physical, most open-minded team,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “To me, mindset is all about how you interpret something that’s happened and how you respond to it, and each and every situation gives you an opportunity to react a certain way.”
Miami played an even tighter opener, edging Detroit 103-102 behind Bam Adebayo’s 22 points and double-doubles from both Jimmy Butler (19 points, 13 rebounds) and Kevin Love (13 points, 10 rebounds) led the Heat.
The Heat held a 19-point lead with 9:07 left and escaped after Detroit missed four straight potential go-ahead shots over the final 1:04.
Miami’s opening victory came in the same tight fashion that so many did a season ago. The Heat were 14-8 in games decided by three points or fewer during the regular season and won two more such games during the playoff run.
“Hopefully, this isn’t the start of another season where we’re going to be playing a clutch game every night,” guard Tyler Herro said. “But it is fun.”
Butler and Love became the seventh pair of teammates to record a double-double in a Miami season opener in franchise history. Butler collected a career-high eight offensive rebounds.
Friday begins a three-game road trip for the Heat. They head to Minnesota on Saturday and Milwaukee on Monday.
“Yeah, let’s go!” coach Eric Spoelstra said of the challenging early-season stretch. “We’re competitors. We don’t hide from anybody. We don’t dodge anybody.
“It’s survival of the strongest. I’m sure they’ve circled us on their calendar.”