x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Pierce jump starts Celtics

Boston made an opening night statement against their NBA Eastern Conference rivals Cleveland with a 95-89 victory on Tuesday.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao (17), tries to shoot against the Boston Celtics.
The Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao (17), tries to shoot against the Boston Celtics.

Boston made an opening night statement against their NBA Eastern Conference rivals Cleveland with a 95-89 victory on Tuesday. Paul Pierce recorded 23 points and 11 rebounds to help the Celtics to their first win in Cleveland since 2004. Pierce made two jump shots and two free throws in the final 63 seconds to seal the win.

Last season's MVP, LeBron James, made an outstanding start to the season in a losing cause, scoring 38 points for the Cavs. Boston's Kevin Garnett, playing his first game since a knee injury in March, scored 13 points and made 10 rebounds while the Celtics' new boy Rasheed Wallace chipped in with 12 points off the bench. "I felt good. I felt eager and excited [and] I had to calm myself down," Garnett said

Cleveland's major off-season acquisition, Shaquille O'Neal, had 10 points and 10 rebounds in his losing debut. "We're still a fairly new team. We're still learning [about] each other," O'Neal said. The defending NBA champions also made a winning start as Kobe Bryant scored 33 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 99-92 win over city rivals the Clippers. Andrew Bynum, the Lakers' centre, celebrated his 22nd birthday with 26 points and 13 rebounds while Lamar Odom, starting in place of the injured Pau Gasol, chipped in with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

For the Clippers, who were without their rookie forward and top overall NBA draft pick Blake Griffin, guard Eric Gordon top-scored with 21 points and the centre Chris Kaman contributed 18 points and 16 rebounds. "That third quarter was a real letdown for us which is not an issue we've had before," said the Lakers' coach, Phil Jackson, after his team had beaten the Clippers for the ninth time in a row.

"We missed a lot of easy shots and gave up a lot of opportunities to them. They came storming back into the game." "Taking them on any night is a tough challenge," said the Clippers' coach, Mike Dunleavy. "They put a lot of pressure on you and Kobe Bryant, [Ron] Artest and Bynum are tough match-ups. We are not looking for any moral victories but I'm glad that our guys played hard all the way through. There were times when they could have folded."

Elsewhere, Gilbert Arenas led the Washington Wizards with 29 points on his comeback from knee surgery as they beat the Dallas Mavericks 102-91. The Portland Trail Blazers got some revenge on the Houston Rockets for their play-off elimination last season with a 96-87 home win. The Rockets were without long-term injury worry Yao Ming as they began the new season with a defeat.

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