The Rick Pitino era began with a stunning win over the best team and best player in the league.
Pitino's reconstructed Celtics overcame a 20-point deficit after one quarter, kept Michael Jordan under control until the fourth and stunned the Chicago Bulls 92-85 Friday night.
The exuberant performance by the league's youngest team had a capacity crowd at the FleetCenter on its feet often, cheering with a volume rarely heard last season when the Celtics had a 15-67 record, the worst in their history.
Boston, which broke an 11-game losing streak against the defending champions, was led by Antoine Walker with 31 points and rookies Chauncey Billups with 15 and Ron Mercer with 11.
Jordan had 16 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, and Jason Caffey finished with 13.
Boston outscored Chicago 56-26 in the second and third quarters to take a 68-58 lead into the final quarter. That's when Jordan nearly won the game.
With Boston leading 86-78, Steve Kerr hit a three-pointer and Jordan followed with two free throws, cutting the lead to 86-83 with 1:21 left. With 38 seconds left, Jordan missed a fallaway jumper while being guarded closely by Mercer and ended up on the floor.
NETS 97, PACERS 95: Larry Bird lost a chance to win his coaching debut when Rik Smits missed two free throws with less than a second to play.
Not only did Smits fail Bird, but visiting Indiana blew a 13-point lead midway through the third quarter. The Pacers scored just 22 points in the final 16 minutes.
Kendall Gill led the Nets with 20 points and Jayson Williams added 18 points and 20 rebounds, most in the second half when the Nets dominated the backboards. Sam Cassell added 18 points for New Jersey, and Sherman Douglas, who was signed earlier in the day, added 10, including a jumper with 2:57 to play that put New Jersey ahead 92-90.
HEAT 114, RAPTORS 101: Jamal Mashburn, criticized last season for his lack of offensive leadership, scored 22 points for host Miami.
Coach Pat Riley plans to make Mashburn the Heat's first option, and the forward responded by constantly driving to the basket and daring the Raptors to guard him one-on-one.
Tim Hardaway had 21 points and 11 assists and Terry Mills came off the bench to add 13 points and 10 rebounds in his Miami debut. Toronto was led by Walt Williams and Doug Christie with 18 points each.
BUCKS 103, SIXERS 88: Ray Allen had 29 points and Glenn Robinson 20 as Milwaukee won its season opener for the seventh straight year.
The 76ers played without last year's Rookie of the Year, Allen Iverson, who was serving a one-game suspension after an off-season no contest plea to a weapons charge.
The Bucks, whose seven straight season-opening wins have come on the road, used a 13-4 run in the fourth quarter to pull away in what had been a relatively close game.
LAKERS: Center Shaquille O'Neal floored Utah center Greg Ostertag with an "open-hand slap" between practice sessions, according to a reporter who witnessed the altercation. Ostertag, who had a welt on his head, and O'Neal declined to comment afterward.
NETS 97, PACERS 95: Larry Bird lost a chance to win his coaching debut when Rik Smits missed two free throws with less than a second to play. Not only did Smits fail Bird, but visiting Indiana blew a 13-point lead midway through the third quarter.
"I hate to lose more than I like to win," said Bird, whose team was held to 22 points in the final 16 minutes. "I feel we gave this game away. We should have won. But for us to win, six or seven guys have to contribute and play well. Tonight only four did."
PISTONS 92, WIZARDS 79: Lindsey Hunter's offense and defense led host Detroit. Hunter scored 23 points and held Washington's Rod Strickland to six points. Strickland averaged 12.8 points in the preseason. Chris Webber scored 19 points for Washington, which used to be known as the Bullets. Detroit guard Joe Dumars went down with a pulled left hamstring during the second quarter. He is expected to miss as much as two weeks.
ROCKETS 94, CAVALIERS 86: Charles Barkley, ending his brief retirement threat, had 6 points and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes for host Houston. Barkley entered with 3:43 to play in the first quarter and drew a loud ovation. The Cavaliers didn't get to use their newly acquired star, Shawn Kemp, who was fined $2,500 and suspended for leaving the bench during an altercation against Minnesota on Oct. 12. Henry James and Vitaly Potapenko also were suspended.
SPURS 107, NUGGETS 96: David Robinson scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half and Tim Duncan added 15 in his league debut for visiting San Antonio. Robinson, limited to just six games because of injuries last year, had 13 rebounds to help the Spurs spoil Bill Hanzlik's coaching debut. Rookie Bobby Jackson scored 27 points to lead the Nuggets.
NBA: Violet Palmer made history in Vancouver by becoming the first woman referee to officiate a regular-season game. The announcement of her name drew no response from the crowd.