BOSTON -- The return of Paul Pierce. First game at TD Garden. Standout night by Jermaine ONeal. After getting off to an 0-3 start, the Boston Celtics put all the pieces together for their first win of the season, 96-85, over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.
Pierce, who missed the first three games with a bruised right heel, scored 12 points (4-8 FG, 2-3 3PG) in 23 minutes. More impressively, he scored half of them in less than eight minutes during the third quarter in which the Celtics built a 25-point lead.
ONeal recorded 19 points, 7 rebounds, and two blocks in his most impressive showing since joining the Celtics last season. His previous scoring high with the Celtics was 15 points in 37 minutes on April 11, 2011 against the Washington Wizards.
Greg Monroe scored a team-high 22 points and nine rebounds for the Pistons, but his efforts fell short as the Pistons were out-shot, 52 percent to 43 percent.
All of the Celtics starters played 30 minutes or less. Brandon Bass led the reserves with 17 points in 23 minutes while Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling each clocked more than 20 minutes.
Chris Wilcox (left shoulder) did not play and hopes to go on Sunday against the Washington Wizards. Mickael Pietrus (knee) is targeting to play within two weeks.
I walked into CSN today to an array of sympathy, which is something I'm not accustomed to. It seems my Bulls-in-six prediction earned me some street cred. (Just for the record, the CSN street cred co-exists with a Wegmans and a Bedford Farms.)
"Too bad about Rondo," I was told. "If he hadn't injured his thumb, your prediction would come true."
Whoaaaaa! This series ain't over. Two straight wins by the Bulls and my predictions does come true.
There are a couple of things to say here. Yes, all of New England -- minus Beetle Bertrand -- wanted me institutionalized for picking the Bulls. And when I said Rajon Rondo would be a major factor, the fitting for my straight jacket was underway.
Well, I don't look so crazy now, do I?
While I was the first to want Rajon Rondo out of a Celtics uniform, I have never ever questioned his ability to control the flow of a game . . . when he wants to. The problem was he was too often hurting the Celts with his petulant ways.
We saw what can happen when Rondo chooses to show up, like he did in Game 2 when he nearly put up a triple double. In that game Isaiah struggled, shooting 6-for-15. In Sunday's Rondo-less Game 4 Isaiah was terrific, as his 33 allowed the Celtics to tie the series at 2-2.
If Rondo doesn't play, Isaiah will no doubt go off again. This is why Chris Mannix is right and Rajon will suit up for Game 5. While Rondo needs his right thumb to play offense, he doesn't to play defense. Defense is played with the feet. Now, I know Rondo gambles as much as anyone but if he stays in front of Isaiah -- which he can do -- the Bulls can win Game 5. And the series.