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BOSTON - Paul Pierce scored 27 as the defending champion Celtics followed an emotional ring ceremony and banner raising with a 90-85 victory over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Cleveland's LeBron James scored 22, but he missed a driving layup with 41 seconds left and two free throws in the last 11 seconds.

Pierce had 11 points in the third quarter, when the Celtics outscored Cleveland 24-13 to take a 67-63 lead. Boston scored 12 of the first 14 in the third, then the last eight of the quarter to turn a four-point deficit into a four-point lead.

With the Cavaliers down 88-84 and 4.8 seconds left, James missed the first of two free throws, and Ray Allen hit a pair of free throws to clinch it. Allen scored eight points, and Kevin Garnett had 11 points and six rebounds.

Before the game, the Celtics raised last season's championship banner, their 17th and first since 1986. John Havlicek, an eight-time champion with Boston, carried the Larry O'Brien trophy onto the court accompanied by other former Celtics and handed it to Pierce. They hugged and Pierce cried.

Magic praises Gortat

ORLANDO - Marcin Gortat, who made the Magic last season as a rookie power forward/center from Poland, is expected to be in the rotation when the season begins tonight against the visiting Hawks (7, Sun Sports).

"I feel good I get this playing time. The coach trusts me," said Gortat, 24.

Gortat, 6 feet 11 and 245 pounds, is still a mystery man. He was largely known as a summer-league trainee for three seasons. He got his big break late last season in the playoffs. After six cameo appearances during the season, he seized veteran Adonal Foyle's minutes behind center Dwight Howard, playing in eight games.

Gortat has stayed ahead of Foyle as the second big man off the bench behind Tony Battie.

Coach Stan Van Gundy is "intrigued" with the athleticism of Gortat, once an amateur soccer goalie in Poland. Gortat won a bet from assistant Pat Ewing that he could dunk from the free-throw line and last season beat former guard Carlos Arroyo in one-on-one.

Assistant coach Brendan Malone works with Gortat and has seen "significant improvement in his body, his game and his confidence. He'll get better the more minutes he plays."

Asked how Gortat has progressed, GM Otis Smith says, "Light years."

D'Antoni era opens tonight

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Mike D'Antoni opens his first season as coach of the Knicks tonight against Miami not knowing what to expect from a team for the first time in four years.

D'Antoni hasn't been this unsure of what he had since his first full season with the Suns in 2004-05. After that, he always believed he had a title contender - which he doesn't now.

"We've got to know that it's a tough, tough road and it's not just going to be, 'Oh, man, they're great,' " D'Antoni said. "It's not going to be that way. It's going to take some tears and hard work."

The Knicks lost 59 games in two of the last three seasons.

"We're trying to be a really good team by at least January, February, maybe April, maybe next year, I don't know," he said. "I'm anxious to get started."

D'Antoni is still sorting out some aspects of his rotation. He's probably more familiar with some of Miami's personnel than his own. He had forward Shawn Marion in Phoenix, then was with Dwyane Wade as an assistant on the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in Beijing.

"I told him to take the month of October off," D'Antoni said. "Obviously he didn't listen."

Jazz: Point guard Deron Williams will miss tonight's opener against the Nuggets because of a left ankle sprain. He is doubtful for Saturday's game against the Clippers.