It will be a whole new ballgame
Exhibition finale not like the opener
COLUMBUS, Ohio - By all accounts, last night’s Celtics-Cavaliers exhibition finale was in no way a barometer for Tuesday’s season opener between the teams.
Rest was a priority on the Celtics’ side. Coach Doc Rivers had penciled in an offday for Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, though Pierce talked his way into the starting lineup.
The Cavaliers were focused on chemistry. A week ago, 11 players were on their injured list, and the team with the league’s best record last season is just starting to reach some sort of a comfort level.
“The preparation is totally different than a regular-season game,’’ said LeBron James, who is recently recovered from the flu. “Guys are not going to play extensive minutes in this game. This is nothing to judge for what’s going to happen on Tuesday.’’
On Tuesday, the Celtics and Cavaliers will renew a rivalry that’s grown in intensity and importance over the last two seasons.
“We start out with them early every year,’’ said Rivers, who got a team-high 21 points from Eddie House last night in a 96-82 win. “It’s becoming a league tradition. The fact that it is means both teams are really good and both teams are expected to challenge for the Eastern Conference. So that’s a good sign.’’
The Cavs didn’t show the Celtics many of their plays, and the Celtics ran their pick-and-roll package almost exclusively.
With a sour taste in his mouth from the loss to New York Tuesday night, Pierce took the court for 13 first-half minutes and scored 11 points.
But if there was a moment that showed how intense the matchup has become, it was at the end of the first half when Mo Williams and Shelden Williams tussled, prompting players on both benches to stand and leading to technical fouls.
“That’s what happens when teams face each other a lot,’’ Rivers said. “They know each other a lot. I’m glad everybody eventually kept their composure and we eventually got back to playing basketball.’’
Rivers wants to keep his lineup and game plan possibilities to himself until the opener, but he knows there are few secrets between the teams.
“It’s not like when they call ‘Dribble 1,’ we don’t know what Dribble 1 is,’’ he said. “Whether we stop it or not, that’s a whole different subject.
“I’m sure they’ll unveil something new in Game 1, just like us. Then after it’s run twice, your guys are smart enough to pick it up or somebody on our bench is. It all comes down to execution at the end of the day.’’
“Everybody was happy to see me,’’ said Powe. “I’m happy to see them. It was all love on my part, their part.’’
Powe signed a two-year deal with the Cavaliers after the Celtics declined to make him a qualifying offer this summer. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during last season’s playoffs, underwent his third major surgery on the knee, and isn’t expected back until at least the All-Star break.
“Initially, I was hurt,’’ said Powe. “I was mad with what they said to me at first. But I had to realize myself it was a business. Not Doc, but management. So I take it and move on.’’
Powe believes he never got a valid explanation from the Celtics.
“One of them told me they didn’t feel like waiting,’’ he said. “The other one said they didn’t have enough money. It was a lot of different stories, but it wasn’t valid. So I said, if it’s time for me to move on then it’s time to move on. I called my agent and told him we’ve got to find somewhere else.
“I thought I was going to come back to that team. In my mind I thought I was going to get back on that team. And that’s the business part. That’s when they had to make a decision. Did they want to stay here and rehab so I can stay healthy or do they want to go move on and get somebody else? Which they made the choice.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.