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.

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – For most of his life, basketball has come easy to James Young.
 
So, the idea that in training camp he wasn’t just fighting to get playing time but also to stay in the NBA, was a jarring eye-opener.
 
To Young’s credit, he rose to the challenge and beat out R.J. Hunter for the Celtics' final roster spot.
 
And while Young’s playing time has been sporadic, he has done a much better job of maximizing his opportunities.
 
So, as the Celtics roll into Detroit to face the Pistons, Young finds himself playing his best basketball as a pro, good enough to make coach Brad Stevens not hesitate to put him in the game in the fourth quarter of a close matchup.
 
“It’s exciting to come back home,” Young, who grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., told CSNNE.com. “A lot of my family will be there. I’m not thinking about me. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team.”
 
And lately, he’s getting an opportunity to do just that beyond being someone who helps in practice.
 
We saw that in the 107-97 loss at Toronto on Friday. Young came off the bench to play four minutes, 36 seconds in the fourth quarter with only two other Celtics reserves, Marcus Smart (8:39) and Jonas Jerebko (5:10) seeing more action down the stretch.
 
“It means a lot,” Young said. “He’s starting to trust me a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I’m just trying to do little things; rebound, get defensive stops and score when I get a chance.”
 
The fact that his scoring is just starting to take shape helps shed some light on why he has been buried so deep on the Celtics bench.
 
For his first couple seasons, Young seemed a hesitant shooter physically overwhelmed by opponents too strong for him to defend as well as too physical for him to limit their effectiveness.
 
But this season, he has done a better job at holding his own as a defender while making himself an available scoring option who can play off his teammates.
 
Young is averaging just 2.9 points per game this season, but he’s shooting a career-high 48.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent on 3’s, which is also a career-high.
 
Getting on the floor more often has in many ways provided yet another boost of confidence to Young.
 
“I’m getting used to the flow of the game playing more consistently,” Young said. “I know what to do. It’s slowing up a little more and it’s getting easier.”
 

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

TORONTO – It’s far too soon to say if the Celtics’ decision to stand pat at the trade deadline was a mistake.
 
But the early returns aren’t encouraging.
 
Their 107-97 loss Friday night to the Toronto Raptors wasn’t because of Kyle Lowry (right wrist), who didn’t even play, or DeMar DeRozan, who played out his mind while scoring a career-high 43 points.
 
The game will be remembered by the new guys Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, both acquired at the trade deadline by the Raptors.
 
Ibaka, who was a bad fit, and on most nights a bad player, in Orlando, looked like the O-K-C Ibaka while scoring 15 points to go with seven rebounds against the Celtics – numbers that were better than his two games combined against the Celtics this season with the Magic when he scored a total of just 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
 
And then there was Tucker, who got a crash video course on Raptors playbook just hours before the game, and proceeded to show the kind of toughness at both ends of the floor that has made him one of the league’s more underrated defenders as he finished with a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.
 
It was their first game with their new team, but you would have thought they had been with Toronto all season long with how seamless they seemed to fit in.
 
Ibaka draining jumpers, Tucker causing chaos defensively, while absolutely crushing the Celtics on the boards...their play was a painful reminder of what could have been for the Green team.
 
Both were rumored to have been in the Celtics’ crosshairs prior to the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Celtics were lukewarm at best on Ibaka (they didn’t want what would have been a 25-game rental) and just couldn’t quite strike a deal and cross the finish line for Tucker.
 
It’s too soon to hit the panic button and rip Danny Ainge for not getting a minor deal done like adding Tucker or Ibaka.
 
Still, his players have to embrace the truth behind what transpired this trade season.
 
Ainge went big-game hunting, focusing most of the team's efforts on landing a major difference-maker, a la Jimmy Butler or Paul George.
 
When that didn’t work out, he settled for the next best thing, which was to keep this group together.
 
The onus is now on them to prove that trust Ainge has in them, was well-placed.
 
Putting too much stock in the first game after the break is a risky proposition that no one should subscribe to.
 
But in the loss, it revealed many of the concerns and weaknesses of this roster that tend to get magnified in defeat while glossed over when they manage to win despite those flaws.
 
Isaiah Thomas may be the best scorer in the fourth quarter, but he’s human.
 
There will be games when Mr. Fourth Quarter can’t get it done.
 
Friday night was that kind of game for him. He scored just four of his team-high 20 points in the fourth.
 
And as the Raptors blitzed him repeatedly with two and three defenders, his teammates failed to step up when the opportunity was there to make impactful, game-altering plays down the stretch.
 
Watching the Celtics’ defense in the second half was painful.
 
DeRozan got whatever he wanted, when he wanted it.
 
And when he missed, the Raptors controlled the boards, got all the 50/50 balls and repeatedly out-worked Boston.
 
It exposed Boston in a way that’s painful to see, especially when those inflicting the greatest amount of damage could have been in the Celtics huddle and not the one on the other sideline.