Boston Celtics: Preseason2010Game3
The rundown (a quick look at postgame headlines)
* J.O'Neal lets defense shine in brief Boston debut
* Shaq gets a taste of playing in green in Garden
* Loose balls: Baby's nose bleed; Erden picks and rolls
J. O'NEAL LETS DEFENSE SHINE IN BRIEF BOSTON DEBUT
Even after 14 years in the NBA, Jermaine O'Neal admitted to a case of the butterflies when he stepped on the floor for the first time in a Celtics uniform Sunday. It showed. In just five ticks of the clock, he managed to get whistled for a defensive three-second violation (which resulted in a team technical foul) and, soon after, got called for a rather obvious offensive foul trying to slow down a defender chasing a Boston shooter along the baseline.
Then, like so many other times during his career, came a big block that settled O'Neal down.
"I was a little bit nervous the first minute, a little bit uncomfortable because you want to play well in front of your new team, a new town," said O'Neal, who logged seven first-half minutes in which he blocked three shots, grabbed two rebounds and took a charge. He did not attempt a shot.
"For me, my defense sets my offensive tone; it gets my blood going. Sometimes guys dictate their game by making a shot. Sometimes you're not going to make that shot, or it takes a while to get that shot. Blocking a shot, taking a charge -- that really gets me going."
O'Neal got some time with the first unit, subbing for starting center Shaquille O'Neal with 6:24 to play in the first quarter. He blocked a Sonny Weems layup two minutes in, then swatted two Amir Johnson attempts before the end of the quarter and took a charge.
"Blocking a shot or taking a charge, I'm there," said Jermaine O'Neal. "I feel like I'm the best big in the game as far as taking charges. I consider myself a real safety and I can cover a lot of ground quickly."
He's still covering ground with the Boston offense, especially after sitting out for a week with a sore left hamstring that caused him to miss the Celtics' first two preseason games. Trying to protect that injury, Celtics coach Doc Rivers did not use O'Neal in the second half, at the behest of the training staff.
"I guess the plan was to only play me for a little bit," said O'Neal. "I didn't know until the second half, the beginning of the third quarter when Doc came to me and said I was done for the night. But it was fun getting out there. I feel really comfortable defensively. Offensively, I'm not up to speed with anything, but you've got to be able to build from some position. Tonight was a good building block for me."
Rivers liked what he saw in the brief sampling.
"That's what he does," Rivers said of O'Neals blocked shots. "The one thing this summer that we talked about with Jermaine is: Even if some of our plays that we think we run pretty well, rarely does the big on the weak side get the ball. And we found ourselves last year trying to pick Jermaine, just so he couldn't get to the ball. He was one of the few bigs we had to do that on. And he showed that. I don't know how he gets there, but he gets there. He's really good.
"He wanted to go [back in], but [Celtics trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] didn't think he should go in for the second half. I had planned on playing him, actually, in the second half, and Eddie came to me at halftime and said that was enough."
Rivers suggested before the game that he'll ramp up Jermaine O'Neal's minutes in one of Boston's next two preseason games, giving Shaquille O'Neal a full game off when the team travels for a back-to-back against the 76ers and Knicks early this week.
SHAQ GETS A TASTE OF PLAYING IN GREEN IN GARDEN
After a trek to New Hampshire last week, Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal got a real taste of home cooking Sunday. Making his third straight start of the preseason, Shaq registered 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting with five rebounds, two blocks and an assist in less than 17 minutes of action in his first time in green in front of the Garden faithful.
One thing that's obvious is that the Celtics very much enjoy having such a monster post presence and are making every effort to get Shaq the ball every time his defender so much as looks the other way.
"[Celtics point guard Rajon] Rondo knows that if he goes to the basket and my man leaves me, just throw it at the rim," said Shaq. "Just throw it at the backboard, throw it up; I'll get it. He's a great player and if he can make the pass, then most of the time I can make the catch."
And, if Shaq can make the catch, more often than not the ball's going to end up in the hoop (or he'll end up at the charity stripe).
"He commands such a presence on the inside that, when I drive the ball or Ray drives the ball, you really can't come off of him because if you do, he's going to get to finish," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "On offense, when you give him the ball, he's such a great passer and guys tend to sink on him, and it's going to open things up for us on the perimeter."
LOOSE BALLS: BABY'S NOSE BLEED; ERDEN PICKS AND ROLLS
* Celtics forward Glen Davis left the game early in the second quarter after suffering what the team dubbed a "nose contusion" after taking a charge under the Boston basket. Davis spilled hard to the floor with 10:48 to play in the second quarter after taking the bump from Toronto's David Andersen. Davis was attended to by trainer Ed Lacerte and left the floor with his nose plugged with cotton. He received treatment on the bench before retreating to the locker room, but the injury is not considered serious.
* Rivers continues to praise the play of rookie center Semih Erden, who remained aggressive despite playing with five fouls late in the game and got an education on playing pick-and-roll defense against sharpshooting bigs. He finished with four points (making the only shot he took), five rebounds and two assists.
"I thought the best part of that whole fourth quarter, at least the last part, was Semih guarding a shooting big with pick-and-rolls all over the floor," said Rivers. "He has a long way to go in our pick-and-roll coverage. But you think about a guy who's trying to learn the language and part of our defense is talking. So he's trying to call out words he's probably never said in his life when he calls them out right now. And you know, one is 'weak,' and when he should go left, he goes to the right. It's just tough for him. But it's good for him to be out on the floor [in those situations]."
* Delonte West on his return to the (often chilly) TD Garden: "I remember how cold it was, you know? You gotta get your blood flowing, you gotta get a good sweat. It's tough as an opponent coming in here, especially with the fans. It was amazing. I had to readjust when I heard all the screams."
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
After Toronto rallied to the lead late in the fourth quarter, Boston's bench refused to let this one slip away. Camp invitee Stephane Lasme provided perhaps the highlight of the night, blowing past Andrea Bargnani while driving for an emphatic one-handed slam that put Boston back on top with 2:48 to go. Nate Robinson got a shooter's bounce on a 3-pointer to push Boston's lead to four and the Celtics hung on from there.
Boston's lead ballooned as high as 15 points in the second quarter, fueled by the bench, which stretched out a five-point, first-quarter lead early in the second. Semih Erden, Marquis Daniels and Delonte West each had buckets as Boston's lead reached double figures with 9:04 to go in the second stanza, and, with the starters back on the floor Rajon Rondo hit a 15-foot fadeaway for a 38-23 lead with 4:18 to play. Toronto rallied back into it, but Boston held the fort.
STAT OF THE GAME
The bench trio of West, Daniels and Robinson each chipped in five field goals while connecting on 15-of-22 shots for a combined 35 points to spark the reserve effort.
With Jermaine O'Neal limited to seven minutes as he debuted after sitting out Boston's first two preseason games with a sore left hamstring, Erden continued to log big minutes. Despite foul woes, he chipped in four points, five rebounds and two assists over 21 minutes, finishing with a team-best plus-nine in the plus/minus category.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics improved to 3-0 on the preseason. The record really doesn't matter, though there certainly would have been some hand-wringing if the C's gave up a double-digit lead against a rather lowly Raptors squad in the first Garden game of the year. Yet again, Boston leaned hard on its bench and the reserves responded by pulling out another victory with inspired play late in the game.
The rundown (a quick look at pregame headlines)
* Shaq to start, JO limited; Bradley out but close
* Loose Balls: Locker selection; 'Sheed's still here, sort of
SHAQ TO START, JO LIMITED; BRADLEY OUT BUT CLOSE
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said center Shaquille O'Neal will remain with the starting unit Sunday night against the Raptors, while Jermaine O'Neal will be eased in off the bench after missing the first two exhibition games with a sore left hamstring.
"I"m going with Shaq first and Jermaine will be on a minute restriction," said Rivers. "I'll sit Shaq one of the next two games completely and play Jermaine a little bit more. But you have to be careful with that hamstring stuff."
The Celtics have all of their players available for the first time this preseason with the return of Jermaine O'Neal, coupled with the improved health of rookie guard Avery Bradley. Rivers noted, however, that Bradley will not play after experiencing just his first taste of full-contact drills at Saturday's practice.
"I actually think Avery could play, but he's not going to play," said Rivers. "I guess he's cleared; he played a little bit [Saturday], but he didn't look like he could play yet to me. So that's probably why he won't play tonight."
Bradley, sitting in his new locker stall between captain Paul Pierce and Nate Robinson, said before the game that his ankle responded well after Saturday's session and that he's nearing full health. And while he's getting anxious with each preseason game that passes, he understands why the coaching staff continues to exercise extreme caution.
Rivers assured him minutes -- and lots of them -- could be coming over the final five games of the preseason slate.
"I really do hope we can get him out on the floor as soon as possible," said Rivers. "Even if he doesn’t know the stuff, he needs [to play]. Just to break the glass and go play a little bit."
LOOSE BALLS: LOCKER SELECTION, 'SHEED'S STILL HERE, SORT OF
* Sunday's game offered reporters (and even the players) their first glance at a new-look Celtics locker room as newcomers were assigned lockers inside the TD Garden for the new season.
Robinson is the only veteran whose location has changed from last season, moving from one corner of the room (imagine three sides of a rectangle) to the other. He noted it was Rivers' decision to move him, allowing rookie center Semih Erden to be closer to some of the bigs.
Erden is in a row with Kevin Garnett, Luke Harnagody and Glen Davis. Robinson's new location puts him closer to a batch of wings: Pierce, Bradley, Delonte West and Marquis Daniels.
* Bradley smiled when noting he got a nice seat next to Pierce, but quickly joked, "I'm a rookie, they could move me over to the other side of the room tomorrow."
* The 15 contract players, including Von Wafer, occupied the 15 stalls inside the Celtics locker room. Camp invitees Stephane Lasme and Mario West don't have lockers in the main room.
* Delonte West brought his two stepsons into the locker room before the game. Ages 9 and 11, the two took turns putting on Shaq's size 23 sneakers and posing for pictures.
"It will be great to be in front of our fans," said captain Paul Pierce. "They've waited [since June and the NBA] Finals. It's good to get back home and try to get some dominance there this year. We struggled there a year ago, so it'll be nice to get off to a good start."
The Celtics were a mere 24-17 at home during the 2009-10 campaign, this after losing just six games at the Garden in each of the previous two seasons. Pierce and his teammates have made reasserting a homecourt advantage a point of emphasis this preseason, especially after a series of head-shaking losses on their home turf last year that left fans booing defeats to the likes of the New Jersey Nets and Washington Wizards.
"It's good to finally get a real home game," said Kevin Garnett. "To be in the building is always good. The fans are crazy in the Garden, good or bad, boos and all. It's always good to be home."
The Celtics are 2-0 on the preseason after opening up with wins against the 76ers and Nets. Jermaine O'Neal is hoping to make his exhibition debut this evening, while Delonte West is expected to play despite leaving Thursday's game against New Jersey in the second half with tension in his back.
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