‘Cole-blooded’ rookie turns up the Heat in Miami
MIAMI—It took a rookie with ice in his veins to rescue the Miami Heat.
Norris Cole buried cold-blooded shots as the Heat held off the Boston Celtics, 115-107, Tuesday to maintain their impressive start to the National Basketball Association season and hand their fabled opponents their
second consecutive loss.
The Heat, beaten by Dallas in last year’s NBA finals, dominated for much of the game and led by 15 points at halftime, but the Celtics created some tension late in the fourth quarter and twice reduced the deficit to three inside the final three minutes.
Cole, a surprise draft pick out of Cleveland State, showed great confidence and steel to score 20 points, 14 of them in the fourth quarter and made four assists, proving clutch baskets in the nervy final moments.
For once, the “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were overshadowed as fans left the arena chattering about the exciting potential of Cole.
“If it was football, he’d get the game ball,” James said of his fellow Ohio native, who came up with a crucial three-pointer to restore a five-point lead just as Boston was sensing an unlikely comeback.
“This kid he’s one of those diamonds in the rough, one of those kids who are very mature and we knew we had a gem in him,” said Wade, who ended up with 24 points and eight assists. “The biggest thing was to be able to take those shots and not be afraid of the moment, he’s the kind of player who thinks that is what he should be doing.
“We see a guy who isn’t afraid to put the work in and who, from day one, has come in and been able to run the show and be able to tell guys like me and LeBron to get out of the way, you have to respect that.
“He didn’t hesitate, he made the big plays down the stretch and I haven’t been on a side with a young guy doing that, so many times, for a long time. Since me,” he quipped.
Cole clearly has the ability to take challenges in his stride and he adroitly avoided a potential media pitfall when asked about whether there was now a “Big Four” in Miami.
“Don’t get carried away, I’m still learning. It was a big game for me but those guys have proven over and over again for years in this league that they are dominant players and I am still learning, I’m still getting better,” Cole told reporters.
Miami is 2-0 on the new, reduced, season after also winning their opener at Dallas on Dec. 25.
In Newark, New Jersey, the Atlanta Hawks opened a double-digit lead early and cruised to a 106-70 rout of the Nets, who were playing their last home opener in the state.
Marvin Williams had 14 points and nine rebounds while Jeff Teague added 13 points for the Hawks, who embarrassed the Nets in a game in which the crowd was booing the Brooklyn-bound team by halftime.
In Milwaukee, rookie Jon Leuer converted a three-point play with 1:17 left, helping the Bucks hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves, 98-95, in their home opener.
In Los Angeles, the Lakers avoided just the fourth 0-3 start in franchise history by crushing the Utah Jazz, 96-71.
Kobe Bryant scored 26 points and Pau Gasol added 22 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who had much more life than the Jazz despite playing their third game in three nights to open the season.
In Portland, Gerald Wallace had 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, as the Trail Blazers ripped the Sacramento Kings, 101-79.