Celtics open season with win in Cleveland
Shaquille O'Neal has learned the ropes in his 17 NBA seasons. There's one lesson that has endured since he was a raw rookie.
"You can't win a championship in the first game," he said.
Boston's Big Three - plus Rasheed - spoiled Cleveland's overhyped season opener on Tuesday night with a 95-89 win over the new-look Cavaliers, who may have LeBron James and Shaq but appear to be a long way from true title contenders.
Paul Pierce scored 23 points, Ray Allen 16 and Kevin Garnett 13 in his first regular-season game since last March as the Celtics, overlooked by some this preseason, ended an 11-game losing streak in Cleveland and snapped a 16-game skid by visiting teams in games between the Eastern powers who figure to meet again sometime in May or June.
"It was a good Day One," Pierce said. "Psychologically, you want to go into a team's building and win, especially in a place where we haven't won in a few years. It's great to come here and get a win. We know when we come here next time that we can do it again."
Pierce made two crucial jumpers and two free throws in the final 1:03 to pace the Celtics, whose drive to a second straight title was derailed when Garnett injured his knee late last season. Rasheed Wallace, added as a free agent during the offseason, had 12 points.
James scored 38 and O'Neal added 10 points - just two after halftime - and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who won their first 23 home games last season but are already 0-1 on their floor.
Cleveland's offense never found a rhythm as the Cavs tried to figure out how to best use the 7-foot-1, 325-pound O'Neal.
"We'd like to start off 1-0, but there are 100 games left," said O'Neal, who was just 1 of 5 from the floor in the second half and missed his only two free throws. "We'll be fine. I've been on teams that started 0-1, 0-5, 5-0, 10-0. Nothing matters unless you win the whole thing."