Place: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida
LeBron James and the host Miami Heat will get to watch their NBA Championship banner be raised to the rafters on opening night while the team on the other side tries not to focus on what went wrong in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Boston Celtics, who held a 3-2 lead on the Heat in that series before crumbling in Games 6 and 7, will get a chance for immediate revenge on Tuesday night.
The Celtics reloaded over the summer, re-signing forward Kevin Garnett and bringing in backcourt veterans like Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Courtney Lee to fortify the bench. Miami did not rest on its laurels either, adding to its own team and possibly weakening Boston by signing away guard Ray Allen.
While Allen is a nice piece to the puzzle, the Heat will go as far as James will take them. The reigning MVP won a gold medal with Team USA over the summer and told reporters recently that he wants to be the best player of all-time.
Boston Celtics (2011-12: 39-27): That Boston came within a game of making the finals last spring was somewhat of a shock. Allen and fellow No. 2 guard Avery Bradley were out or limited throughout the playoffs and Jeff Green missed the entire season.
The Celtics are healthy at the moment and will use a deep rotation to keep players like Garnett, forward Paul Pierce and Green from wearing down. Point guard Rajon Rondo, who averaged 20.9 points and 11.3 assists in the seven-game series against Miami last spring, has drawn praise from his teammates and coaches and appears ready to step up as the leader of the team.
Miami Heat (2011-12: 46-20): Any questions about whether or not James was able to handle pressure situations were answered against the Celtics in Game 6 last spring. On the road and with his team against the wall, James crushed Boston’s celebration plans by putting up 45 points on 19-of-26 shooting and adding 15 rebounds.
He went on to average a double-double in the finals and earn his first ring. Still only 28 years old, James will be aiming for his fourth MVP award in five seasons. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who both sat out the Olympics with injuries, played the preseason and are ready to go on Tuesday.
1. Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra is making his offense more fluid and doing away with rigid positions. James will likely handle the bulk of the ball handling.
2. Boston took three of four from the Heat in the 2011-12 regular season, including a 115-107 victory in Miami in which Rondo piled up 18 points and 15 assists. That snapped a five-game losing streak in Miami.
3. James twisted his right ankle and took a kick to the face in Friday’s final preseason game but expects to play against the Celtics.