Plenty of change in NBA, including a Celtics opener without Auerbach

Thursday, November 2nd 2006, 5:35 am
By: News On 6

The New York Knicks have a different look on the sideline and the Detroit Pistons sure aren't the same in the middle.

However, the biggest change in the NBA comes in Boston, where the Celtics opened a season without Red Auerbach watching for the first time.

The first full night of games included a ceremony in Boston on Wednesday night where the Celtics honored their former coach and executive, who died of a heart attack Saturday at 89. He had seen all 56 previous Celtics season openers, 16 ended with championships, and planned to attend this one.

Despite 29 points and 19 rebounds from Paul Pierce, the Celtics lost to the New Orleans Hornets 91-87.

"We wanted to win so bad,'' Pierce said. "We wanted to win for the fans. It was definitely emotional in my play.''

Rookie of the Year Chris Paul had 20 points and 10 assists for the Hornets in the opener of his second season.

"Red Auerbach, he's the man,'' Paul said. "Being point guard, I had to make sure we stayed under control.''

New York showed an improved offense under Isiah Thomas in a 118-117 triple-overtime victory at Memphis, but defense might be a problem in Detroit with Ben Wallace gone. The Pistons struggled to protect the rim in a 105-97 home loss to Milwaukee.

In other games, it was: Orlando 109, Chicago 94; Philadelphia 88, Atlanta 75; Indiana 106, Charlotte 99; New Jersey 102, Toronto 92; Minnesota 92, Sacramento 83; Cleveland 97, Washington 94; Utah 107, Houston 97; Portland 110, Seattle 106; Phoenix 112, the Los Angeles Clippers 104; and the Los Angeles Lakers 110, Golden State 98.

Thomas wants the Knicks to play at a quicker pace than they did last season while going 23-59 under Larry Brown. They built a 19-point lead over the Grizzlies, but blew all of it in the fourth quarter before getting their president and general manager a victory in his first game as their coach.

"It feels good to get Isiah and the team started right,'' guard Jamal Crawford said. "(But) we have to learn to finish. We had them down 19. We should have pushed it to 30.''

Quentin Richardson made two free throws with 12 seconds left in the third overtime and led New York with 31 points.

"We showed that we have great courage and fight, and we found a way to win,'' Thomas said. "I have a lot of respect for our guys.''

Detroit's Flip Saunders used the word embarrassing'' to describe the play of his Pistons, who yielded 70 points in the paint in their first game since Wallace left for a $60 million, four-year contract with Chicago.

"Is that a record? I've never seen that in my life,'' the Pistons' Antonio McDyess said.

It certainly wasn't seen in Detroit when Wallace, the four-time Defensive Player of the Year, was in the middle.

"Ben's been the Defensive Player of the Year for what, four years? That says it better than anything else,'' Charlie Villanueva said after his 16-point, 12-rebound debut with Milwaukee. "They are a different team without him.''

Suns 112, Clippers 104

Shawn Marion had 27 points and 10 rebounds, Steve Nash added 20 points and 11 assists, and Phoenix won its home opener.

Amare Stoudemire, looking strong after missing virtually all of last season following knee surgery, had 15 points in 24 minutes. Elton Brand scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Clippers in their season opener.

Cavaliers 97, Wizards 94

Larry Hughes scored 27 points, LeBron James added 26 and Cleveland beat visiting Washington.

Hughes added nine rebounds and five assists. As usual, James stuffed the box score with 10 rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes.

Caron Butler scored 23 points and Antawn Jamison had 20 for the Wizards. Gilbert Arenas had just seven points on 2-12 shooting but added 11 assists.

Lakers 110, Warriors 98

Ronny Turiaf had career highs of 23 points and nine rebounds, Lamar Odom scored 22 points and Los Angeles beat Golden State for its second victory in two days without Kobe Bryant.

Odom added nine rebounds and nine assists as the Lakers followed up their surprising victory over Phoenix the previous night with a thorough road thumping of the Warriors in coach Don Nelson's inauspicious debut.

Trail Blazers 110, SuperSonics 106

Zach Randolph scored 30 points to help Portland spoil the 40th and potentially final season opener for Seattle.

Brandon Roy, the Pac-10 player of the year last season at Washington, was brilliant in his hometown during his NBA debut. He had 20 points on 10-16 shooting.

Timberwolves 92, Kings 83

At Minneapolis, Mike Bibby picked up two technical fouls at a critical juncture of the fourth quarter and Minnesota's Kevin Garnett finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds.

Bibby was expected to miss the first two weeks of the season with an injured thumb. He had 16 points and five assists before he was ejected.

Jazz 107, Rockets 97

Derek Fisher had 13 points and six assists in his Utah debut and led a decisive run down the stretch.

Carlos Boozer had 24 points and 19 rebounds and Deron Williams also had a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists for Utah.

Tracy McGrady led the visiting Rockets with 25 points.

Magic 109, Bulls 94

Dwight Howard had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and Jameer Nelson scored 21 points as host Orlando surprised Chicago, which beat defending champion Miami by 42 points the night before.

76ers 88, Hawks 75

At Philadelphia, Allen Iverson scored 32 points as the 76ers improved their mark on opening night to 39-19.

Atlanta lost its 8th straight opener.

Nets 102, Raptors 92

Jason Kidd had 14 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his 76th career triple-double, and Vince Carter added 25 points and 11 rebounds for host New Jersey.

Anthony Parker, the free agent signed after playing in Israel, had 22 points to lead the Raptors.

Pacers 106, Bobcats 99

At Charlotte, N.C., Jermaine O'Neal and Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 20 points apiece and Indiana pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Emeka Okafor had 19 points, 13 rebounds and a team record-tying six blocks for the Bobcats, who lost Gerald Wallace in the second quarter to dizziness, neck and back injuries after he hit his head on the floor following a flagrant foul by Danny Granger.