Ford Keys to the Game: Nets 83, Celtics 89
Nets 83, Celtics 89
As we sat at halftime of tonight’s game in the TD Garden, there was plenty to sulk about from the Boston Celtics’ perspective. For a third straight game in which the Celtics played an inferior opponent, they came out of the gates with little execution. They couldn’t locate any inkling of the perfect basketball they played against Atlanta Monday night. The team scored a season-low in points during the first half, with only 39. Most importantly, the C’s had watched Delonte West, the ever important guard they just got back after a 10-game suspension, suffer a brutal injury to his wrist after going down hard on a fast break.
If that’s not enough to set a team into some form of panic mode, there may not be anything that could.
And so the C’s went into halftime trailing 46-39 to a team which entered the game with a 5-9 record. But the last thing Boston did in the locker room was panic. Instead, they regrouped.
Veteran leadership came through in the end and the Celtics headed into the second half with new life, led by Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was unstoppable in the paint and single handedly kept the Celtics in the game until the rest of the team joined him. His teammates began to help him out midway through the third quarter, and by the time the fourth period came around, this game had turned into a nail biter.
Neither team could pull away over the first half of the final period, and that means New Jersey completely missed its chance. Newsflash for the Nets: Never let a championship caliber team hang around in the fourth quarter if you’ve got a chance to put them away.
The Celtics’ stifling defense continued throughout the final quarter and it wound up heating their offense at the other end during the biggest stretch of the game. Boston held New Jersey without a field goal from the 5:08 mark to the 1:46 mark, and during that stretch the C’s put the game away.
Paul Pierce got things started with a driving jumper in the paint, and Ray Allen followed that up with a 3-pointer from directly in front of New Jersey’s bench less than a minute later. Pierce wasn’t done with his work, though, as he canned two more jumpers in a row to put the Celtics up 82-73, their largest lead of the game to that point, as the 2:04 mark. The first shot was a turnaround, fade away jumper from his sweet spot at the extended elbow. It was nearly indefensible. The second basket, which came after O'Neal notched his first double-double of the season with a rebound at the other end, came off of a pullup jumper from the top of the key that everyone knew was going in from the second it left his fingertips.
That quick spurt, which totaled an 9-1 run over that span of 3:22, put the game away and sent Boston into Thanksgiving with something to be happy about despite the devastating injury West suffered earlier in the night.
Key Box Score Line
When the Celtics signed Shaquille O’Neal in August, they knew they were signing a 38-year-old future Hall-of-Famer with a million miles on his odometer. What they didn’t know is that less than a month into the season, the Big Shamrock would turn the clock back for a performance reminiscent of a typical night he used to put up in his mid-20s.
Calling Shaq a dominating force tonight would be a drastic understatement. He lit the Nets and Brook Lopez up for a game-high 25 points and tied for the game high with 11 rebounds. Those 25 points? They came on 9-of-10 shooting from the field. And while he wasn’t making it look easy putting field goal attempts through the hoop, he was busy getting fouled by New Jersey because they had no other way of slowing him down. O’Neal took a game-high 13 free throws and drilled seven of them.
When all was said and done, Shaq had either tied or surpasses season highs in points, rebounds, minutes played, free throw attempts, field goal attempts and steals. Without his performance, the Celtics likely would have been goners in this game, but the 38-year-old with all of those miles on his legs turned back the clocks tonight to help lead his team to victory.
Box Score Nuggets
- Only four Nets players recorded an assist.
- Boston scored 39 points in the first half, and New Jersey scored 37 in the second half.
- Shaquille O'Neal scored a game-high 25 points and tied for the game high in rebounds with 11.
- Shaq also shot 9-of-10 from the floor while taking a game-high 13 free throw attempts.
- New Jersey grabbed 34 defensive rebounds, which was one more than Boston's total rebounding number of 33.
- Ray Allen tied with Jordan Farmar for the game high with seven assists.
- Kevin Garnett and Allen tied for the game-high with three steals apiece.
- The Celtics grabbed 11 steals to the Nets' two.
- Farmar shot 1-of-6 from beyond the 3-point line.
- The Celtics committed only 10 turnovers.
- Boston recorded 25 assists, while New Jersey dished out only 15 total dimes.
- Boston scored 44 points in the paint to New Jersey's 28.
- The Celtics shot 7-of-8 from the floor in fast break attempts.
Quote of the Night
Shaquille O'Neal on where this team stands in terms of others he's been on: "This is a great team. The best team I’ve been on. They’ve got a lot of weapons on this team, so on any given night anybody can be the leading scorer."