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Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009

Celtics signal intent

Pierce leads Boston past Cavs in season opener

CLEVELAND (AP) 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.

News photo
Irish eyes are smiling: Boston's Paul Pierce looks for a way past Cleveland's Anthony Parker during the Celtics' 95-89 season-opening win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday. AP PHOTO

"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 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."

Wizards 102, Mavericks 91

In Dallas, Gilbert Arenas had 29 points and nine assists to help stake Washington to an early lead over the revamped Mavericks in Flip Saunders' debut as Wizards coach.

Arenas shot 10-of-21 and made 8-of-9 free throws for his most points since Nov. 14, 2007. He played only 13 games that season, then had a total of 26 points in two games last season, all because of knee problems.

Lakers 99, Clippers 92

In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant scored 33 points and Andrew Bynum added 26 on his 22nd birthday as the reigning NBA champions opened defense of their title by beating Staples Center co-tenants the Los Angeles Clippers, who played without injured No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin.

Trail Blazers 96, Rockets 87

In Portland, reserve Travis Outlaw scored 23 points as the Blazers beat Houston in the season opener.

Brandon Roy added 20 points and five assists for Portland. The Blazers hit 20 of 22 free throws and outrebounded Houston 51-33.

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