Ford Keys to the Game: Pistons 85, Celtics 96

Ford Keys to the Game

Pistons 85, Celtics 96

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Greg Stiemsma

Greg Stiemsma, who entered tonight's contest leading the league in blocks per game, sends one back from whence it came after Jason Maxiell of the Pistons attempted a shot on him.
Steve Babineau/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

Friday night marked the return of the Boston Celtics to TD Garden, and the return of Paul Pierce to the lineup.

Pierce finally made his season debut after missing Boston’s first three games with a bruised right heel. His return played a huge role in the Celtics’ 96-85 win over Detroit tonight.

With Pierce on board, Boston began the game with plenty of energy, but this time they were able to bring execution along for the ride, too.

Rather than falling behind early, which has been standard this season, the Celtics jumped ahead. Boston outscored Detroit in both quarters of the first half and took a 50-43 lead into the locker room.

That seven-point advantage was great, but it wasn’t the buffer the Celtics would have liked to exist between them and a team destined to miss the playoffs. That decent lead turned into a blowout lead in the blink of an eye when the second half began.

Boston retained possession on the first play of the second half and Rajon Rondo found Ray Allen for an open 3-pointer that bumped the Celtics’ lead up to 10 just 16 seconds into the third quarter. Oddly enough, Greg Monroe lost the ball and turned it over 16 seconds into Detroit’s ensuing possession.

That turnover gave Boston the ball and a chance to blow this game wide open. Pierce, who helped the C’s start the game strong simply with his presence on the floor, was ready to help blow the game open with his play on the floor.

Kevin Garnett tossed a pass out to Pierce, who was perched behind the 3-point line, and the captain fired up a 3 that was money from the second it left his fingertips. When the shot splashed through the net the Celtics were ahead by 13 points and former Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank, who now runs the show in Detroit, called an immediate timeout to stem the tide.

That timeout was not in the nick of time.

The Celtics had taken a seven-point halftime lead and nearly doubled it in just 43 seconds, leaving them with their largest lead of the game to that point at 56-43. That’s the moment that the route switch was flipped to "On."

Boston’s lead eventually ballooned to 25 points, and that’s when Doc Rivers attempted to sit his starters for the entire fourth quarter. Detroit made a minor run and Rivers brought his top players back into the game, but this one was over when Allen and Pierce went back-to-back from downtown.

Key Box Score Line

The Celtics faithful welcomed Paul Pierce to the 2011-12 season Friday night, but in a way they also welcomed Jermaine O’neal, too.

O’Neal's numbers had been modest at best through the first three games of the season: 2.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG. Those aren’t anywhere near the numbers a championship contender needs from its starting center.

And so the questions began to fly around: Is O’Neal hurt? Is he done? Can he be this team’s starting center?

Put those questions away, folks. O’Neal answered them all Friday night.

The big man turned back the clock and looked as spry as he ever has in a Celtics uniform tonight and finished the game with 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. The 19 points are his most since joining the team, and they came on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor and a 5-of-5 night from the free-throw line.

This performance by O’Neal may be his best in a Celtics uniform. He dropped 15 points and 13 boards on the Wizards in the second-to-last game of the 2010-11 regular season, but that was in a meaningless game. This one meant a lot because it’s Boston’s first win of the season, and because the C's now know that O’Neal is fully capable of delivering the goods inside.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Boston shot 19-of-19 from the free-throw line.
  • Greg Monroe, who scored a game-high 22 points, was the only Detroit player to score more than 11.
  • Monroe also led the game in rebounds with nine.
  • Jermaine O'Neal led the Celtics with 19 points and seven rebounds.
  • The teams combined for only 20 turnovers (11 by Boston, nine by Detroit).
  • The Celtics blocked six shots, while the Pistons blocked none.
  • Boston racked up 25 assists, led by five apiece from Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.
  • Pierce finished with 12 points, four rebounds and five dimes in his first appearance of the season.
  • After heading into the game allowing 106.0 PPG, the Celtics limited Detroit to just 85.
  • Both teams attempted 16 3-pointers, with Boston making seven and Detroit making just three.
  • Monroe (nine rebounds) and O'Neal (seven rebounds) were the only players in the game to grab more than five boards.
  • Twelve of Detroit's 35 total rebounds were at the offensive end.
  • Brandon Bass scored 17 points off the bench for Boston.
  • Ray Allen also scored 17 points.
  • All of Boston's starters finished with a plus/minus rating of at least plus-11.
  • None of Boston's starters eclipsed 30 minutes of playing time.
  • The Celtics attempted 12 less shots than the Pistons, but outscored Detroit by 11.

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers on Jermaine O'Neal's performance: "I thought he was really focused on setting picks and rebounding and doing all the little things. You know, it’s funny, we just talked about this as a group and I said, ‘Guys who do that (their job) - it’s amazing how you get rewarded somehow.' "