LeBron James and Dwyane Wade say they've been unphased by the Celtics' tough talk. (Getty Images)

MIAMI -- Too bruised to bully; too vulnerable to frighten.

That's the state of the Boston Celtics after a 93-79 Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat, a defeat that saw LeBron James -- in a celebratory act flush with confidence -- laugh openly in the face of Kevin Garnett.

The exchange, and the easy manner with which Miami's offense carved up Boston in the second half, left the Celtics salty in their post-game comments.

"Nothing dirty," Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said of his team's need to step up the physicality. "But, you know, they've got to hit the deck, too."

Rondo's declaration called back to Boston's glory days of recent years past, when Garnett was always the center of attention and a focal point for inspiring fear, whether he was screaming, pounding his chest, down on his knees barking like a dog or berating teammates on the bench.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, always looking to put to bed non-basketball storylines, cut himself off when asked to respond to the idea that Boston might look to up the physicality in Game 2 to make up for their obvious athletic disadvantage.

"Nope," he said, waiting for a long pause. "We're not even going to get into it. It's about the game. We understand that. There will be a lot of different distractions and noise out there. We have to focus on winning the basketball game tomorrow night."

It's one thing to try to tune out Garnett; it's another to laugh in his face. James' Monday night guffaw was followed up by a satisfied scoff on Tuesday.

"I expect a physical game every single game I play in, me personally," James said. "It doesn't surprise me. It's not like, 'Oh, I got to gear up for it.' I'm already geared up for it."

His running mate, Dwyane Wade, was also dismissive.

"Obviously you have to protect yourself," he said. "We're men just like they're men. We're not going to let nobody come in and punk us. That's not our mentality, to go out there and make them hit the deck. We're trying to play basketball and trying to win games."

Wade's approach surprises no one. A scrap between Wade and Rondo in the 2011 playoffs ended with Rondo dislocating his elbow. And let's not forget Wade broke Kobe Bryant's nose during the 2012 All-Star Game.

But James' comments seemed to come from a different place. The "been there, done that" tone in his voice sent the same message as Monday night's laughter: "What are they going to do me?"

James is no on-court tough guy, but he's passed plenty of recent tests. He carried Miami past Boston in last year's playoffs. He experienced a new level of scrutiny in losing the 2011 Finals. He dealt with continual trash talk and on-court squabbles during Miami's Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Indiana Pacers. And, of course, he's dominated the competition this season, taking home regular season MVP honors and averaging 29.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals so far during the playoffs.

What's left is a confident and calm player who, this week, couldn't appear more different than the defensive, defiant James who took hit after hit from the media last June.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that James and Wade played with "extreme comfort" during Game 1. Comfort has definitely been the vibe on and off the court in recent days. Miami has now won four straight playoff games with James and Wade putting up eye-popping numbers during the stretch.

James has averaged 32.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists while Wade has put up 30.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists. In three out of the five games during a first round playoff series against the New York Knicks, James took 18 or fewer shots. Since Bosh went down he has attempted less than 22 just once. Ditto for Wade, who never took 20 shots against the Knicks but has taken 20-plus four times since Bosh's injury. 

"When Bosh went out the packages got smaller," Wade said. "Plays get called for me or LeBron instead of all three of us. I'm more involved in the offense. We know exactly what we're going to get. The packages got smaller and it became more of a comfort for us to get back to what we were used to in a sense."

He stopped himself there, realizing that his statement of "comfort" might be interpreted as a declaration that Miami doesn't need Bosh.

"Not... saying that we don't want Chris back right now -- we would love have him back right now, healthy -- but we made the adjustment we needed to make with him out," Wade said.

All those extra touches have led to big stat lines but also wide open perimeter looks for the likes of Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers. Spoelstra and James both harped on the fact that Miami's 5-for-25 outside shooting kept the Heat from reaching the level of play they wanted. Now that James and Wade are facing Boston's porous perimeter defense that's a shell of its former self because of injuries to Ray Allen and Avery Bradley, the floodgates appear wide open.

The Heat rubbed it in a litle bit in Game 1. James with his laugh, his behind-the-back pass, his through-the-legs dribbling at the top of the key; Wade with his touchdown pass, his impossible fallaway floater, his looping drives past a helpless Allen. And that is the true source of Boston's post-game talk. Frustration, pure and simple, at the fact that there is no real answer for James and Wade, just as there wasn't last season. Frustration that Miami understands its many advantages and how to exploit them. Frustration that the "big brother, little brother" days are a thing of the past.
"We think we're a physical team, they're a physical team," Spoelstra said, showing Boston respect as equals but nothing more. "It will still be about the game. Who plays the game better. Who plays to their identity better."

And as for the rough stuff?

"I don't think anything will cross the line," he said simply. "I don't."

It almost sounded like another confident challenge.