It’s the most anticipated NBA story of the season – and it started in Boston as the Miami Heat’s new Big 3 came up short on opening night of the campaign. Here’s our blog of the action as it happened at the TD Garden. 

 FINAL: Boston 88-80 Miami. Allen 20 pts, Pierce 19 pts, Rondo 17 assts – James 31 pts, Wade 13 pts.

Boston were up as much as 19. Miami cut it to 83-80 with 1:21 left but Ray Allen rode to the rescue. But overall, the scoreline has flattered the Heat. The Celtics halfcourt defence has successful limited their Eastern Conference rivals and exposed their lack of post presence, and immediately put Chris Bosh under the spotlight. It’s immediately become apparent that Erik Spoelstra will need to go through LeBron to make this work, rather than Wade.

 The positive thing for the Heat coach is that his team plays the 76ers tomorrow, who will pose but a fraction of the challenge of the Celtics. And his star-studded line-up was barely acquainted before the opener so they can only improve as the season progresses – ominous for everyone else.

Just don’t sleep on Boston. They nearly faded in the fourth but they’ll continue to be a threat. Keep tabs on the season, right here on MVP.

4:51: Paul Pierce hits 3-3 from the foul line after being banged by James Jones (newly arrived from Mersey Tigers). Boston up 81-70. Shaq’s sitting down. Does Doc Rivers want him shooting free throws in crunch time? No.

7:23 left in the 4th quarter: Miami’s energy is up, even as James takes a breather. Pierce returns but his spell in the locker room having treatment has disrupted Boston’s rotation. Can they get it back and hold off the charge? Pierce thinks so, draining from distance to cool off the Heat and open the gap to 70-64. Time for the King to come back.

End 3rd: With Wade on the bench, and Paul Pierce hobbed with a bruised back, LeBron is taking over. He’s scored 15 of Miami’s 23 points in this period and the Heat now trail Boston 63-57. We’re well used to this. But where is Bosh? 8 points and 5 rebounds. As my man Brian Mahoney points out, this is his introduction to the NBA’s casual audience in the USA and so far, he’s been less than impressive.

Significantly, the illusion has been exposed. This is already LeBron’s team.

 2.30: Most troubling for Spoelstra is how poor Wade and James have been in transition. Their speed and power will bring the Heat a lot of easy scores this year but they’ve been curiously hesitant tonight. Finally, with D-Wade running the point, a 7-0 run from Miami reduces the lead – that peaked at 16 – down to 55-45 but then Allen pops up with .. another three. Oops.

 Remember, we’ve got three great competitions on MVP at the moment: where you can win a Derrick Rose jersey, a copy of Delme Herriman’s brilliant autobiography, and a K1X t-shirt (which my man Greg tells me is ‘dope’). Go enter, before it’s too late.

6:06 left in 3rd quarter: Someone else making a successful adjustment tonight. Rajon Rondo, sans headband. The NBA have confirmed that the Celtics point guard can no longer wear his trademark upside-down headband. So, it would appear, it’s gone. He’s causing major mis-match problems against Arroyo and Eddie House, who can’t stop him. He has 11 assists to Miami’s 6. New-look Shaq also continues to impress. Meanwhile Ray Allen hits his third three-pointer to take his tally to 14 after Wade is picked off. Boston have a 55-40 cushion over Miami.

 Half-time: Boston 45-32 Miami. OK, admit it, you’re a little under-whelmed by this Miami team, right? Let’s not get too carried away. Basketball’s a game of runs. The visitors could still win, even though they’ve failed to beat the Heat’s lowest first-half total of last season (30). James is the only Miami player in double-figures (10) and just as in Cleveland, the whole offense is running through him. Garnett has 11 to lead the Celtics, who have looked sharp, motivated and determined to illustrate that the path through the Eastern Conference passes via Beantown.

 2:00: James has taken over point guard duties in an attempt to light a fire under the Heat but they are still finding it hard to get open shots. Zydrunas Ilgauskas checks in for the first time – his first action in his 12-year NBA career in the service of someone other than the Cavaliers. That’s 21,820 career minutes with Cleveland. Meanwhile, Bosh is 1-8. In the meantime, Marv Albert describes a new adaption of Conan The Barbarian as “the biggest televisual event since the last big televisual event.” Slick.

 3:31: It really is getting worse for Miami who are being picked apart. They’ve yet to make a field goal. Their offensive penetration is negligible. And the Celtics are dishing out a chemistry lesson. In Vegas, the odds on Pat Riley being head coach by play-off time are being rapidly cut. It’s early days yet. But if a reality check was needed, then it has arrived sooner than expected. The Heat might still be deserved (if narrow) favourites to win the championship. However, the empathy which Wade and James forged on Olympics duty will take some time to re-construct, which is why we’re seeing frequent turnovers here.

6:25: Nate Robinson gets in on the act with a breakaway dunk to put the Celtics up 31-15. Big 3 are now 4-21 FG. Those voodoo dolls in Cleveland working a treat.

8:23: Spoelstra forced to take a time out with Miami trailing 25-13. Now it’s the Celtics bench – led by Marquis Daniels – doing some damage. Green towels being waved. Cigar being lit in heaven.

11.06 left in second: Spoelstra gets the first coaching technical of the season after one of his assistants, David Fizdale, rails excessively against a decision. That’s the new rules in action with referees given the green light to clamp down on protests, whether verbal or physical. The players union doesn’t like it. But the way things have been going, the next stage could be a return to punch-ups. So the message is: deal with it. Somewhere, some place, Rasheed Wallace, understands it was the right time to call it quits.

End 1st: Boston 14-9 Miami. LBJ 2-7, Bosh 1-1, Wade 0-4. No such a Big 3 for 12. The exhibition season is definitely over. This is ugly. “Defensively, there are some good things going on,” says Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “Offensively… exhale.”

2.30: Boston lead 14-8. And we have a first appearance from Jermaine O’Neal, who has apparently eschewed retirement yet again, despite having been ineffective for most of this decade. Wade is looking ring rusty. He only played 3 minutes in the entire pre-season due to a dodgy hamstring, unfortunate timing when you want to shore up your status as Alpha Dog.

6.01: Chris Bosh opens his Heat account – or should that be utility bill? We’ve talked a lot about James – and the sphere of influence with Dwyane “Don’t-Call-Me-Flash-Any-More” Wade. But is there even more pressure on Bosh? In Toronto, he did his thing but the only time anyone outside Canada noticed was when he made those quite-funny videos promoting himself on YouTube. Now we’ll see if he is hype or substance.

8:02: Shaquille O’Neal gets his first points as a Celtic. It’s not quite as jawing as James in black but it’s still going to take a long time to get used to the Big Shamrock thing. Mind you, it worked for Bill Walton once upon a time. The behemoth now known as Number 36 follows it up with a dunk moments later and gets a standing ovation. These Boston fans have short memories.

10:53 left in the first: LeBron scores his first official points as a Heat player, a neat jumper as the shot clock runs down over Paul Pierce. It’s going to take a while to get used to him playing in that uniform. It might be easier when he’s playing in the Heat’s red home uniform.

Start of first quarter: It’s the moment you’ve waited for all summer. Yup, Carlos Arroyo is a member of the Miami Heat. Big Four anyone? OK, you wanted LeBron and he obliges en route to the court with his now traditional powder toss. In Cleveland, it became an iconic symbol, a rallying cry for the Cavs faithful. South Florida isn’t known for such ferocity. And in Boston, there is a murmur of indifference.

In Boston Celtics’ history, there has never been a hotter opening night ticket than this one. The regular season debut of the new-look Miami Heat – and the debut of a couple of All Stars who arrived, almost unseen, over the summer. But lest we forget, the hosts are only four months removed from a NBA Finals appearance of their own. It should be fun. Stick with us.

All images courtesy NBAE / Getty Images

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