(Sports Network) - The NBA's version of The Beatles invades the City of Brotherly Love Wednesday night after a bad opening night performance in Beantown.
Ray Allen and Paul Pierce scored 20 and 19 points, respectively, as the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics held off the new-look Miami Heat, 88-80, in arguably the most anticipated regular season opener in NBA history.
The Heat, of course, grabbed everyone's attention in the offseason by acquiring two of the highest profile free agent acquisitions in NBA history. Reigning two-time NBA MVP LeBron James, who fled Cleveland after seven seasons, and former Toronto All-Star power forward Chris Bosh joined forces with Dwyane Wade.
The blockbuster moves by Miami gave them three players with 17 All-Star appearances between them and tons of championship expectations. James and Bosh both signed six-year, $110.1 million contracts, and Wade was re-signed by the Heat for $107.5 million over six years.
Miami's "Big Three" was not good enough to get past a tough Boston team on Tuesday night. James led the way with 31 points on 10-of-21 shooting. Wade and Bosh added 13 and 8 points, respectively, and shot a combined 7-of-27 from the field.
"We all know Rome wasn't built in one day. We understand that," James said. "We just need to continue to get better."
"A little bit out of rhythm, of course. This is my first -- LeBron's and my first preseason game," Wade added. "Just getting a little bit out of rhythm and continuity is still -- with me being out, the continuity is still not there yet. But I thought defensively we played well. We did a good job of holding this team to 88 points, and we've still got a lot of things we can work on."
Tonight the Heat try and get back on track against the Philadelphia 76ers and their new coach, Doug Collins.
The 76ers, once one of the NBA's marquee franchises thanks to legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson, have not been a part of the recent Philadelphia sports revival.
In fact attending a Sixers game last year at the Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) Center was a bit depressing. Poor decisions by the front office hampered the team's development culminating in an awful 27-55 ledger last season in which head coach Eddie Jordan lost his team by Christmas.
To be blunt, then-Sixers president and general manager Ed Stefanski probably should have joined his hand-picked coach and friend on the unemployment line after last year's disastrous run. But, the Comcast-Spectacor braintrust of Ed Snider and Peter Luukko, loathe to admit another in a long line of mistakes, gave the embattled Philadelphia basketball chief one more chance.
This time, with the leash pulled tight in the form of assistant general manager Tony DiLeo and consultant Gene Shue watching over his shoulder, Stefanski made a prudent decision and inked the highly regarded Doug Collins to be the team's mentor in 2010-11.
The hire happened a year after it should have and cost the Sixers dearly in the crowded, very competitive Philly sports market, but Stefanski was finally moving the team in the right direction again.
Dealing underachieving center Samuel Dalembert to Sacramento for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni, and landing Evan Turner after lucking out a bit in the NBA Draft Lottery also were regarded as feathers in Stefanski's cap.
That said, you could still sense the Sixers' brass wasn't all that comfortable with Stefanski leading the organization and that sentiment came into focus in August when Snider and Luukko demoted him and named his old boss in New Jersey, Rod Thorn, as the team's new president.
Thorn, an NBA veteran of more than four decades, is one of the league's most highly-regarded executives, while Collins' basketball knowledge is without peer, almost encyclopedic.
If winning truly starts at the top, the Sixers are about to arrive fashionably late to Philadelphia's sports revival.
"I know the pulse of this city," said Collins, who will be on the sidelines despite being diagnosed with vertigo last week. "I've had a chance to live it. I'm blessed to be the coach here and I don't take that responsibility lightly."
Miami swept the four-game season series between the two clubs a year ago.