O'Neal delivers finest Celtics performance

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O'Neal delivers finest Celtics performance

BOSTON -- For some veteran players, a condensed season means conserving minutes and limiting time on the court to preserve energy for the next game.

Jermaine ONeal wants the opposite of that.

On Friday night, ONeal played nearly 29 minutes in the Celtics' win against the Detroit Pistons. He scored a team-high 19 points (7-for-9 FG) and grabbed seven rebounds. It was his highest point total since last April in which he scored 15 points in 36 minutes.

ONeal, who had not played more than 22 minutes the first three games of the season, was able to find his rhythm -- and the basket.

I was able to be effective by playing extended minutes, he said after the Celtics' 96-85 victory. I think when you can get a rhythm, you can get a flow, you can get comfortable with what the team is doing.

You look at the first couple of games, I was in and out of there so fast, it was almost impossible to get any flow to the game. But more than anything, concentrating on the task and thats setting screens, rolling to the basket, try to get to the open spot, and this team is about a team. Its about finding the open guy and helping the next guy get his shot. Tonight it just was falling for me.

Coach Doc Rivers was complimentary of the big mans performance after the game.

He was terrific, said Rivers. He gave us a great lift, played with great energy. He made shots, but the offensive part, to me, came from doing his job, really. I told him that. I thought he was really focused on setting picks and rebounding and doing all the little things.

Its funny, we just talked about this as a group and I said, Guys who do that, its amazing how you get rewarded somehow. And thats what happened, to me. He kept setting picks on Ray Allen. And listen, JOs no dummy. If you set a pick on Ray, everyones jumping to Ray and he kept slipping it. He sought it early in the game, and thats brilliant. He did his job by getting Ray open and he benefited from it, and we benefited from it.

Allen, who scored 17 points, appreciated his teammates efforts.

He was huge, Allen said of ONeal. He showed his length, his presence, he rotated over, he made guys miss around the basket. Even if he wasnt in position, he gradually saw them coming and he gave us great position deep in the paint. And he made his shots. He played a great game for us.

On paper, Friday night was ONeals best game since joining the Celtics last season. He agrees with that assessment on the offensive end, but points that he judges his overall performance on more than just scoring baskets. He looks to continue staying out of foul trouble early and helping the team on the defensive end.

Im not going to let the offensive end dictate, and I know people are always going to judge that part of me how I helped the team based off that, he said. air or not, thats just how people are. But defensively and rebounding is where Im going to judge myself and thats my role.

Ive heard people ask me, Why would you accept that role? Because thats what you do on a championship-caliber team. You accept your role and you get into that position and you own that position. Thats what I want to do.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.