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The Sixth Man: LeBron launches strong opening salvo

Life is full of curveballs and the Boston Celtics just found out what a Sandy Koufax overhand 12-to-6 yakker must have looked like.

In 48 hours, the proud-but-aging Celtics went from the can't-shoot-it-straight Philadelphia Sixers to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

The results were rather predictable.

James exploded with an opening salvo of 32 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots as the Miami Heat easily handled the Celtics, 93-79, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Wade, meanwhile, added 22 points and seven assists for Miami, which never trailed in the contest and led by as many as 17.

"We didn't play our best game and we just want to continue to get better throughout the series," James said. "It's a good sign ... but we understand we didn't have our best game tonight."

A chilling thought for the Celtics, who are quickly figuring out that a flawed Philadelphia team bailed them out time and time again during the semifinals with enough bricks to build a skyscraper. Yet, the Sixers still took the Celtics to seven games before Rajon Rondo saved the C's in Game 7.

On Monday, those Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young botched open looks were replaced by the game's top player, who just happens to be toiling at the highest level he ever has, along with his amazing sidekick, the best "Robin" since Burt Ward was standing next to Adam West in the 1960s.

The Celtics hung in for a bit and even scored 35 points on 59.1 percent shooting in the second quarter, but that was the mirage. Boston had a dismal opening frame in which James outscored the entire team 13-11, and amassed just 33 points in the second half when James and Wade kicked on the afterburners.

The reigning MVP scored 10 points in the third quarter and D-Wade added six more and facilitated things brilliantly, finding James with an outlet pass and later with a leaping assist in the paint as Miami pushed its lead to double digits.

"I thought in the second quarter we executed offensively ... I thought we started competing. Then in the third quarter, the game just got away from us," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I thought we rushed. I thought our offense was rushed."

Boston never produced any kind of push in the fourth quarter, trailing 82-70, with around five minutes left when James drained an impressive step back, one- footed bank shot, mimicking a bucket Wade had earlier.

"I think we're doing a good job of playing off each other," Wade said. "Both being aggressive at the same time, also understanding when another guy has certain matchups that he can expose."

Essentially, James destroyed the Celtics, putting a punctuation on his performance in the waning moments when Kevin Garnett tried his tired bullying act on the superstar.

This wasn't calling rookie Lavoy Allen a vulgar word, however. K.G. was trying to intimidate a player infinitely better than anyone on his own side who just happens to be so physically imposing that he looks like he could tear Garnett in half if he were so inclined

James simply looked at the 36-year-old wanna-be enforcer and laughed.

A fitting end since LeBron took whatever he wanted from the C's whenever he wanted it.

"They're home, they're comfortable and when you're comfortable you do things like that," Garnett said, suggesting James and the Heat were showing off a bit down the stretch. "We have to show them to take them out of their comfort zone. We've got to fight a lot harder."